Solving problems, especially word problems, are always a challenge.
To become a good problem solver you need to have a plan or method
which is easy to follow to determine what needs to be solved. Then
the plan is carried out to solve the problem. The key is to have a
plan which works in any math problem solving situation. For students
having problems with problem solving, the following 20 tips are provided
for helping children become good problem solvers.
Tip 1: When given a problem to solve look for clues to determine
what math operation is needed to solve the problem, for example addition,
Tip 2: Read the problem carefully as you look for clues and important
information. Write down the clues, underline, or highlight the clues.
Tip 3: Look for key words like sum, difference, product, perimeter,
area, etc. They will lead you to what operation you need to use. Rewrite
the problem if necessary.
Tip 4: Look for what you need to find out, for example: how many
will you have left, the total will be, everyone gets red, everyone
gets one of each, etc. They will also lead you to the type of operation
needed to solve the problem.
Tip 5: Use variable symbols, such as "X" for missing information.
Tip 6: Eliminate all non-essential information by drawing a line
through this distracting information.
Tip 7: Addition problems use words like sum, total, in all, and perimeter.
Tip 8: Subtraction problems use words like difference, how much
more, and exceeds.
Tip 9: Multiplication problems use words like product, total, area,
Tip 10: Division problems use words like share, distribute, quotient,
Tip 11: Draw sketches, drawings, and models to see the problem.
Tip 12: Use guess and check techniques to see if you are on the right
Tip 13: Ask yourself if you have ever seen a problem like this before,
if so how did you solve it.
Tip 14: Use a formula for solving the problem, for example for finding
the area of a circle.
Tip 15: Develop a plan based on the information that you have determined
to be important to solving the problem.
Tip 16: Carry out the plan using the math operations you determined
would find the answer.
Tip 17: See if the answer seems reasonable, if does then you are
probably ok - if not then check your work.
Tip 18: Work the problem in reverse or backwards starting with the
answer to see if you wind up with your original problem.
Tip 19: Do not forget about units of measure as you work the problem,
such as: inches, pounds, ounces, feet, yard, meter, etc. Not using
units of measure may result in the wrong answer.
Tip 20: Ask yourself did you answer the problem? Are you sure? How
do you know you are sure?
These are all good tips for developing a plan of attack in math
problem solving. If you use these 20 tips as basis for developing
your own problem solving technique you will be successful. Most students
use the tips described above, use them for a few problems, and then
adapt them to fit their style of learning and problem solving. This
is perfectly fine, because these 20 tips are only meant as a starting
point for learning how to solve problems.
One tip that is not mentioned above is that as you develop a strategy
for solving math problems, then this strategy will become your strategy
for solving problems in other subjects and dealing with life's problems
you will encounter as you continue to grow.