View Full Version : How to help my child with long winded math word problems?


busymomonli
01-27-14, 06:17 PM
Since the introduction of Common Core, my 10 year old has been struggling with math and its oddly worded problems. By far the worst, is long winded math problems. The multiple step problems such as "Sara bought 10 shirts at 5.00 each, and 3 pairs of pants at 2.75. she paid with a $100 bill. Then she lent her best friend Emily 2.75. How much money would Sara have left?" I'm giving a very easy example, his are much harder and involve long division and multiplication.

He tends to read the first two lines and then, just like that, he's off into nowhere land. Or, he will instantly see two numbers and just add, without really understanding the problem.

Is there a trick to get him to slow down and read it through? It's really causing a lot of frustration on his part and mine. When I try to explain how to look at each problem step by step, he just kind of stares at me blankly. Help!

messyme
01-27-14, 07:03 PM
There are many different strategies for solving word problems, but with my son, and even with myself, I find the one that helps him/me the most is drawing a picture to help understand what is going on, and form a picture in the mind also.

For example, a circle with the letter "S" in it, and 10 boxes with "$5.00" in it; arrows going from the circle to each of the boxes. Then 3 squares with "$2.75" in them, arrows going to these. Etc.

Circling the important information in the question helps also (ex: "10 shirts", "$5.00 each",...) Sometimes even numbers are not important; ex: the age of the children in the question. And sometimes numbers are in written form (ex: "ten apples"...) so make sure he pays attention to those.

I think I have some links to good articles/sites on the internet about problem-solving in math; I am busy now but I'll see what else I can find.

Stevuke79
01-27-14, 07:13 PM
Read the last sentense (the actual question) first.

That way he will know what he's looking for before he's uninterested.. And it will make the subsequent sentences more interesting (relevant).

Ms. Mango
01-27-14, 08:47 PM
A big problem for a lot of kids, not just ones with ADHD, is that they want to jump in and start working before they even know what the question is. Step one should always be to read the whole problem. Often, you'll realize there is some extraneous information there just to throw you off or make the problem seem more complex than it really is. I usually have DS put a line through those bits (lightly) first.

Then we look at the problem as written. Sometimes you have to calculate something in the middle of the problem first. I have him underline or put brackets around the important info and, if needed, put them in order (ex. put a 1 over the bracketed items that need to be calculated first). Once you've laid it all out you can follow your steps and solve.

We've also used colored pencil and highlighters to make the relevant information stand out. It helps.

Canadian Mess
01-27-14, 09:18 PM
For those kinds of math problems as a kid (and a high school student and doing a math course last year in university) with ADHD

I first had to read the question out loud so I would concentrate on it. As I read each part of the question, I would underline or circle important numbers.

Then I would write down "What am I looking for?" And would write down the point of the question. "How many x can she get for y and l?"

Next, I would take out the important stuff I underlined and write it down kind of like a business statement, one side would the "positive number side or how much I started out with" and the other would be the "taking away / dividing/ making it bigger side"

Started with:
+$100

Take away/ dividing/making bigger
George needs $10 so -$10
Michel gives you $15 so +$15
split remainder for $30 shoes, $20 shirt= -$50


Following PEDMAS (I would write down every time what that meant Parenthesis, Exponent, Division, Multiplication, Addition, subtraction, I would then answer the question.

Then at the end, to make sure I did the question, I would answer it in a full sentence. "If Sally had 10 apples, and wanted to split them evenly among the 3 kittens, she would give them 3 each after throwing out the rotten apple"

Ms. Mango
01-27-14, 09:28 PM
:goodpost: Just want to say you might have mixed up your order of operations. I think it's PEMDAS.

Canadian Mess
01-27-14, 09:33 PM
:goodpost: Just want to say you might have mixed up your order of operations. I think it's PEMDAS.

Wouldn't surprise me, I almost failed math class because of undiagnosed ADHD. I couldn't sit still in class and had to take frequent water or bathroom breaks to get some time to let off the energy, couldn't remember verbal instructions and struggled to finish homework

busymomonli
01-29-14, 12:12 PM
Thank you all for the help! Great suggestions. I love the one about drawing the little pictures to represent the equations, but he's dealing with decimals and junk so that would be kind of hard.

I will tell him to read the last sentance first, then slowly read the rest. (He can't read it out loud at school because it would be distracting for the other kids)

addthree
01-29-14, 12:23 PM
The dreaded word problem. I had a lot of trouble with those in college algebra. They are often outlandishly worded and deceitful to those with learning disabilities.

ginniebean
01-29-14, 02:49 PM
Word problems should be banned. I still can't do them. Tried to help my add nice with them and it was horrible for me even worse for her. We worked on her multiplication tables so she has them down pat, and that was much easier for both of us.

My stomach still churns looking at them.

Sadists

Btw. The real world answer is when you're done, count your money and be done with it.

Abi
01-29-14, 02:58 PM
Separate it.

Take each line at a time.

"1. Sara bought 10 shirts at 5.00 each,Cost of ****s = 10 x 5.00 = 50

2./ and 3 pairs of pants at 2.75. 3 x 2.75 = 8.25

3. she paid with a $100 bill.Total purchase = 50.00 + 8.25 = 58.25

Change = 100.00 - 58.25 = 42.75

4. Then she lent her best friend Emily 2.75. How much money would Sara have left?" Remaining money = 42.75 - 2.75 = 40.00

***

Creative / Lateral Thinking Exercise: Note that the question did not specify that the $100 was ALL the money she had, just that it was what she used to pay for the clothes. She may have many more 100.00 notes :)

Abi
01-29-14, 03:01 PM
Word problems should be banned. I still can't do them. Tried to help my add nice with them and it was horrible for me even worse for her. We worked on her multiplication tables so she has them down pat, and that was much easier for both of us.

My stomach still churns looking at them.

Sadists

Btw. The real world answer is when you're done, count your money and be done with it.

Word problems should be actively promoted and the percentage on time spent on them at primary, secondary and college level increased.
They facilitate for learners to apply their knowledge as opposed to doing rote exercises and regurgitating theorems from the book like monkeys.

Stevuke79
01-29-14, 05:04 PM
Ginnie, I agree with your sentiment which I think is mostly about educational methods. But if a child you do word problems, the math is utterly useless and a waste of time to learn. We might be able to argue that in some sense they could still understand the math, but they still wouldn't understand anything useful.

The problem is not the idea of a word problem, it's the method. I think this video is worth the 10 minutes:
youtube.com/watch?v=qocAoN4jNwc

messyme
01-30-14, 03:58 PM
Thank you all for the help! Great suggestions. I love the one about drawing the little pictures to represent the equations, but he's dealing with decimals and junk so that would be kind of hard.


If you give me an example of a question that would be difficult to do a drawing of, I'll try to see if I can explain how you could use a drawing/model for it.

Corina86
01-30-14, 05:41 PM
Abi's method is very good. My father taught it to me when I was little and I was very good in math for a while thanks to that (and the many hours of practice my parents put me through). It helps the kid focus on one sentence at a time. Plus, by writing things down, he maintains focus even better.

Two extra tips I was given that were also helpful:
1. rewrite the text of the problem on your sheet/notebook- it will help you remember the text better

I actually used this only in the first years at school, when reading the text was one of the biggest issues. I gradually gave that up as I stopped needing it.

2. write down separately, in numbers, what you know.

Sara bought 10 shirts at 5.00 each, and 3 pairs of pants at 2.75. she paid with a $100 bill. Then she lent her best friend Emily 2.75. How much money would Sara have left?

becomes:

10 shirts - 5 $ each: 10*5= 50$
3 pants - 2.75$ each: 3.75$
Total bill: 100$
For Emily: 2.75$

3. if the problem requires a certain calculation method, write down all known formulas related to that (ex: if the problem if for geometry and it has a circle, write down all formulas related to circles).

4. on the formulas, circle all know information, then start with whatever it is easiest to calculate first.

I know it's long and your kid's exam time is precious, but if it works, it's better than nothing.

Another tip: if his memory is lousy (as mine is), use mental calculations as little as possible; tell him to write all intermediary answers and calculations down.