“If Johnny has eight apples, and he gives three of them away to Sally, how many apples does he have left?” Word problems have long been met with dread by math students from all walks of life. Normally, when people think of mathematics, words are not the first visual that comes to mind; it’s numbers! However, the importance of word problems cannot be discounted. Studies on education have shown that word problems have many benefits. Of course, we at A Grade Ahead definitely see the value of word problems; our math curriculum has an emphasis on building the skills needed and completing word problems in our unique enrichment program. Let’s explore the benefits of word problems below!
Why Are Word Problems Important?
Strengthen Problem-Solving Skills
Although number-based math involves problem solving, thinking about solutions in the form of words is much more impactful and applicable to other areas of a student’s learning and cognitive development. As in life, when certain problems arise, people must be able to think about solutions in different formats in order to conjure up the best possible solution. This website offers some tips on how to help children improve their abilities to work through word problems, and therefore, improve their problem-solving skills.
Improve Comprehension and Analysis
Math isn’t the subject where people would imagine comprehension skills could be built, but that is just another testament to how important word problems are! Word problems offer a way to practice close reading, visualizing, interpreting, and analyzing. Students are presented with a story in a word problem. They must read closely to understand what information is important, and visualize it to gain a complete view of the goal. They must know what the question means and analyze the question for clues to how to solve the problem. All these skills are practiced before the student even begins applying any math equations!
Build Logical and Critical Thinking Skills
Students must transform numbers to visuals in their minds, and then back into numbers again – all while addressing all the logical limitations of the problem.
Including numbers in real-life scenarios makes math more interesting for students! Often, when just using math rules and not thinking critically about the problem, students can make mistakes and come up with nonsensible answers. However, because there is no scenario attached, students may not understand why such answers don’t work. For example:
Solve for x: 15x – 170= 100.
The correct answer is 18, but students who are unsure about the correct process for solving this problem could answer anything from -163 to 4 to 4,050! Without any context, these students won’t necessarily notice a logical problem with their answers. Let’s try again in the form of a word problem.
A car company must sell 100 cars each week in order to make a profit. It costs the company $170 to pay its fifteen employees each week. How many cars does each employee have to sell this week in order for the company to make a profit?
Using the scenario given, students may set up the problem as it is shown numerically and solve. However, now that we have a situation to go along with, answers like -163, 4, and 4,050 really don’t make sense, and students will be able to notice that. Word problems are important for learning because they develop a child’s logical thinking skills.
Becoming a word-problem master is one step toward becoming a master at life! This blog post by John Marsh gives some examples about why that is. When students can use their imaginations to visualize and explore the dimensions of various word problems, they can become more motivated to solve scenarios than if they are looking at monotonous number combinations.
Plus, this will help students when they are looking at numeric equations. They may be able to apply the word-problem thinking to come up with solutions to a math problem by imagining an equation as a word problem! Creativity is key both in the classroom and in life satisfaction, so we should probably start teaching our kids its importance through word problems!
One of the main struggles that teachers face in the math classroom is engaging students and making them feel excited to learn. This website gives some creative word problems that students will enjoy working on for a wide variety of math topics.
How often do you think teachers hear the question: “Why are we learning this?” (Hint: It’s a lot!) Word problems are one way to show students how they might be able to use math in their lives now, or in the future. What student doesn’t want to imagine they have 10 cookies? The bottom line is students will be more inclined to practice skills if they are convinced that it will actually be useful.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Word problems give students a way to practice all the tools they have learned. Especially in higher levels, word problems involve multiple steps and can use many different types of math. Often, students are able to bring in concepts learned in past chapters or even past grades. This helps reinforce previously learned topics and show students the benefits of learning a concept instead of memorizing it for a test!
Word problems are a key tool in determining what material a student feels comfortable. With multiple choice problems, or even basic solving, there are many opportunities for children to get the right answer without actually understanding the process or rationale behind the math. But, with word problems, students must display the higher levels of thinking that is required, meaning that they must display that they have the knowledge needed to solve the question. Word problems make it easier to see what concepts students need extra help on.
After reading this, we hope you see the importance of word problems, too! If your child is struggling to apply his or her knowledge to word problems, consider an enrichment program at an academy or at home and practice the skills above.
Can you think of any more reasons that show the importance of word problems for student learning? Do you think word problems have helped your child? Let us know in the comments below!
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