- Read and visualize the story. (Do one sentence at a time if necessary).
- Have your child talk about what he/she pictured. Who was in it? What were they doing? What were they trying to find out?
- Use the chart below to think through the information. Have your child say what he’s thinking as he goes. This helps him reason through the information and develop the language that he eventually internalizes and uses on his own whenever doing word problems.
Here is a simple problem as an example, but this strategy works with word problems of almost any level and helps students understand what they doing.
Problem: Sara and Kaitlyn were on the same swim team. On Friday morning, Sara swam 19 laps and Kaitlyn swam 23 laps. How many more laps did Kaitlin swim than Sara?
Visualize and verbalize (make a mental movie of) the story:
“I picture two girls in a swimming pool swimming laps. They both swam a lot of laps, but Sara got out after 19 laps and Kaitlin kept going until she completed 23 laps.
I have to figure out how many laps Kaitlin did after Sara got out of the pool.”
(To solve this, you might have to guide your child in recognizing that until Sara got out of the pool, the two girls swam the same number of laps. The difference is the number of laps Kaitlin swam once Sara got out. Whenever you are finding the difference, you will subtract the smaller number from the larger number).
Have your child verbalize or write the full answer to the problem:
“Kaitlin swam 4 more laps than Sara.”
*As with many of our tips, this takes some time at first, but the more you do it, the more independent and confident your child will get with word problems.