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## Different mathematical solving methods can affect how information is memorized

by University of Geneva

The way we memorize information—a mathematical problem statement, for example—reveals the way we process it. A team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), in collaboration with CY Cergy Paris University (CYU) and Bourgogne University (uB), has shown how different solving methods can alter the way information is memorized and even create false memories.

By identifying learners' unconscious deductions, this study opens up new perspectives for mathematics teaching. These results are published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition .

Remembering information goes through several stages: perception, encoding—the way it is processed to become an easily accessible memory trace—and retrieval (or reactivation). At each stage, errors can occur, sometimes leading to the formation of false memories .

Scientists from the UNIGE, CYU and Bourgogne University set out to determine whether solving arithmetic problems could generate such memories and whether they could be influenced by the nature of the problems.

## Unconscious deductions create false memories

When solving a mathematical problem , it is possible to call upon either the ordinal property of numbers, i.e., the fact that they are ordered, or their cardinal property, i.e., the fact that they designate specific quantities. This can lead to different solving strategies and, when memorized, to different encoding.

In concrete terms, the representation of a problem involving the calculation of durations or differences in heights (ordinal problem) can sometimes allow unconscious deductions to be made, leading to a more direct solution. This is in contrast to the representation of a problem involving the calculation of weights or prices (cardinal problem), which can lead to additional steps in the reasoning, such as the intermediate calculation of subsets.

The scientists therefore hypothesized that, as a result of spontaneous deductions, participants would unconsciously modify their memories of ordinal problem statements, but not those of cardinal problems.

To test this, a total of 67 adults were asked to solve arithmetic problems of both types, and then to recall the wording in order to test their memories. The scientists found that in the majority of cases (83%), the statements were correctly recalled for cardinal problems.

In contrast, the results were different when the participants had to remember the wording of ordinal problems, such as: "Sophie's journey takes 8 hours. Her journey takes place during the day. When she arrives, the clock reads 11. Fred leaves at the same time as Sophie. Fred's journey is 2 hours shorter than Sophie's. What time does the clock show when Fred arrives?"

In more than half the cases, information deduced by the participants when solving these problems was added unintentionally to the statement. In the case of the problem mentioned above, for example, they could be convinced—wrongly—that they had read: "Fred arrived 2 hours before Sophie" (an inference made because Fred and Sophie left at the same time, but Fred's journey took 2 hours less, which is factually true but constitutes an alteration to what the statement indicated).

"We have shown that when solving specific problems, participants have the illusion of having read sentences that were never actually presented in the statements, but were linked to unconscious deductions made when reading the statements. They become confused in their minds with the sentences they actually read," explains Hippolyte Gros, former post-doctoral fellow at UNIGE's Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, lecturer at CYU, and first author of the study.

## Invoking memories to understand reasoning

In addition, the experiments showed that the participants with the false memories were only those who had discovered the shortest strategy, thus revealing their unconscious reasoning that had enabled them to find this resolution shortcut. On the other hand, the others, who had operated in more stages, were unable to "enrich" their memory because they had not carried out the corresponding reasoning.

"This work can have applications for learning mathematics. By asking students to recall statements, we can identify their mental representations and therefore the reasoning they used when solving the problem, based on the presence or absence of false memories in their restitution," explains Emmanuel Sander, full professor at the UNIGE's Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, who directed this research.

It is difficult to access mental constructs directly. Doing so indirectly, by analyzing memorization processes, could lead to a better understanding of the difficulties encountered by students in solving problems, and provide avenues for intervention in the classroom.

Provided by University of Geneva

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## A nonlinear relaxation-strategy-based algorithm for solving sum-of-linear-ratios problems

- Bo Zhang 1,2 , , ,
- Yuelin Gao 2,3 ,
- Ying Qiao 1 ,
- 1. School of Mathematics and Information Sciences, North Minzu University Yinchuan, 750021, China
- 2. Ningxia province key laboratory of intelligent information and data processing, North Minzu University, Yinchuan, 750021, China
- 3. Ningxia mathematics basic discipline research center, North Minzu University, Yinchuan, 750021, China
- Received: 19 July 2024 Revised: 07 August 2024 Accepted: 27 August 2024 Published: 30 August 2024

MSC : 90C32, 90C26

- Full Text(HTML)
- Download PDF

This paper mainly studies the sum-of-linear-ratios problems, which have important applications in finance, economy and computational vision. In this process, we first propose a new method to re-represent the original problem as an equivalent problem (EP). Secondly, by relaxing these constraints, a nonlinear relaxation subproblem is constructed for EP. In view of the special structure of the relaxation, it is reconstructed as a second-order cone programming (SOCP) problem, which is essentially a SOCP relaxation of EP. Thirdly, through the structural characteristics of the objective function of EP, a region reduction technique is designed to accelerate the termination of the algorithm as much as possible. By integrating the SOCP relaxation and acceleration strategy into the branch and bound framework, a new global optimization algorithm is developed. Further, the theoretical convergence and computational complexity of the algorithm are analyzed. Numerical experiment results reveal that the algorithm is effective and feasible.

- global optimization ,
- fractional program ,
- branch and bound ,
- SOCP relaxation

Citation: Bo Zhang, Yuelin Gao, Ying Qiao, Ying Sun. A nonlinear relaxation-strategy-based algorithm for solving sum-of-linear-ratios problems[J]. AIMS Mathematics, 2024, 9(9): 25396-25412. doi: 10.3934/math.20241240

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- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ -->

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## 通讯作者: 陈斌, [email protected]

沈阳化工大学材料科学与工程学院 沈阳 110142

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## ChatGPT as a Math Questioner? Evaluating ChatGPT on Generating Pre-university Math Question

Mathematical questioning is crucial for assessing students problem-solving skills. Since manually creating such questions requires substantial effort, automatic methods have been explored. Existing state-of-the-art models rely on fine-tuning strategies and struggle to generate questions that heavily involve multiple steps of logical and arithmetic reasoning. Meanwhile, large language models(LLMs) such as ChatGPT have excelled in many NLP tasks involving logical and arithmetic reasoning. Nonetheless, their applications in generating educational questions are underutilized, especially in the field of mathematics. To bridge this gap, we take the first step to conduct an in-depth analysis of ChatGPT in generating pre-university math questions. Our analysis is categorized into two main settings: context-aware and context-unaware. In the context-aware setting, we evaluate ChatGPT on existing math question-answering benchmarks covering elementary, secondary, and ternary classes. In the context-unaware setting, we evaluate ChatGPT in generating math questions for each lesson from pre-university math curriculums that we crawl. Our crawling results in TopicMath, a comprehensive and novel collection of pre-university math curriculums collected from 121 math topics and 428 lessons from elementary, secondary, and tertiary classes. Through this analysis, we aim to provide insight into the potential of ChatGPT as a math questioner.

## Nhat M. Hoang

Research intern (jul ‘24).

My name is Nhat, research assistant at NTU Nail Lab, Singapore. I’m interested in generative AI, multimodal learning, and large language models.

High Impact Tutoring Built By Math Experts

Personalized standards-aligned one-on-one math tutoring for schools and districts

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Hundreds of free math resources created by experienced math teachers to save time, build engagement and accelerate growth

## 20 Effective Math Strategies To Approach Problem-Solving

Katie Keeton

Math strategies for problem-solving help students use a range of approaches to solve many different types of problems. It involves identifying the problem and carrying out a plan of action to find the answer to mathematical problems.

Problem-solving skills are essential to math in the general classroom and real-life. They require logical reasoning and critical thinking skills. Students must be equipped with strategies to help them find solutions to problems.

This article explores mathematical problem solving strategies, logical reasoning and critical thinking skills to help learners with solving math word problems independently in real-life situations.

## What are problem-solving strategies?

Problem-solving strategies in math are methods students can use to figure out solutions to math problems. Some problem-solving strategies:

- Draw a model
- Use different approaches
- Check the inverse to make sure the answer is correct

Students need to have a toolkit of math problem-solving strategies at their disposal to provide different ways to approach math problems. This makes it easier to find solutions and understand math better.

Strategies can help guide students to the solution when it is difficult ot know when to start.

The ultimate guide to problem solving techniques

Download these ready-to-go problem solving techniques that every student should know. Includes printable tasks for students including challenges, short explanations for teachers with questioning prompts.

## 20 Math Strategies For Problem-Solving

Different problem-solving math strategies are required for different parts of the problem. It is unlikely that students will use the same strategy to understand and solve the problem.

Here are 20 strategies to help students develop their problem-solving skills.

## Strategies to understand the problem

Strategies that help students understand the problem before solving it helps ensure they understand:

- The context
- What the key information is
- How to form a plan to solve it

Following these steps leads students to the correct solution and makes the math word problem easier .

Here are five strategies to help students understand the content of the problem and identify key information.

## 1. Read the problem aloud

Read a word problem aloud to help understand it. Hearing the words engages auditory processing. This can make it easier to process and comprehend the context of the situation.

## 2. Highlight keywords

When keywords are highlighted in a word problem, it helps the student focus on the essential information needed to solve it. Some important keywords help determine which operation is needed. For example, if the word problem asks how many are left, the problem likely requires subtraction. Ensure students highlight the keywords carefully and do not highlight every number or keyword. There is likely irrelevant information in the word problem.

## 3. Summarize the information

Read the problem aloud, highlight the key information and then summarize the information. Students can do this in their heads or write down a quick summary. Summaries should include only the important information and be in simple terms that help contextualize the problem.

## 4. Determine the unknown

A common problem that students have when solving a word problem is misunderstanding what they are solving. Determine what the unknown information is before finding the answer. Often, a word problem contains a question where you can find the unknown information you need to solve. For example, in the question ‘How many apples are left?’ students need to find the number of apples left over.

## 5. Make a plan

Once students understand the context of the word problem, have dentified the important information and determined the unknown, they can make a plan to solve it. The plan will depend on the type of problem. Some problems involve more than one step to solve them as some require more than one answer. Encourage students to make a list of each step they need to take to solve the problem before getting started.

## Strategies for solving the problem

1. draw a model or diagram.

Students may find it useful to draw a model, picture, diagram, or other visual aid to help with the problem solving process. It can help to visualize the problem to understand the relationships between the numbers in the problem. In turn, this helps students see the solution.

Similarly, you could draw a model to represent the objects in the problem:

## 2. Act it out

This particular strategy is applicable at any grade level but is especially helpful in math investigation in elementary school . It involves a physical demonstration or students acting out the problem using movements, concrete resources and math manipulatives . When students act out a problem, they can visualize and contectualize the word problem in another way and secure an understanding of the math concepts. The examples below show how 1st-grade students could “act out” an addition and subtraction problem:

The problem | How to act out the problem |

Gia has 6 apples. Jordan has 3 apples. How many apples do they have altogether? | Two students use counters to represent the apples. One student has 6 counters and the other student takes 3. Then, they can combine their “apples” and count the total. |

Michael has 7 pencils. He gives 2 pencils to Sarah. How many pencils does Michael have now? | One student (“Michael”) holds 7 pencils, the other (“Sarah”) holds 2 pencils. The student playing Michael gives 2 pencils to the student playing Sarah. Then the students count how many pencils Michael is left holding. |

## 3. Work backwards

Working backwards is a popular problem-solving strategy. It involves starting with a possible solution and deciding what steps to take to arrive at that solution. This strategy can be particularly helpful when students solve math word problems involving multiple steps. They can start at the end and think carefully about each step taken as opposed to jumping to the end of the problem and missing steps in between.

For example,

To solve this problem working backwards, start with the final condition, which is Sam’s grandmother’s age (71) and work backwards to find Sam’s age. Subtract 20 from the grandmother’s age, which is 71. Then, divide the result by 3 to get Sam’s age. 71 – 20 = 51 51 ÷ 3 = 17 Sam is 17 years old.

## 4. Write a number sentence

When faced with a word problem, encourage students to write a number sentence based on the information. This helps translate the information in the word problem into a math equation or expression, which is more easily solved. It is important to fully understand the context of the word problem and what students need to solve before writing an equation to represent it.

## 5. Use a formula

Specific formulas help solve many math problems. For example, if a problem asks students to find the area of a rug, they would use the area formula (area = length × width) to solve. Make sure students know the important mathematical formulas they will need in tests and real-life. It can help to display these around the classroom or, for those who need more support, on students’ desks.

## Strategies for checking the solution

Once the problem is solved using an appropriate strategy, it is equally important to check the solution to ensure it is correct and makes sense.

There are many strategies to check the solution. The strategy for a specific problem is dependent on the problem type and math content involved.

Here are five strategies to help students check their solutions.

## 1. Use the Inverse Operation

For simpler problems, a quick and easy problem solving strategy is to use the inverse operation. For example, if the operation to solve a word problem is 56 ÷ 8 = 7 students can check the answer is correct by multiplying 8 × 7. As good practice, encourage students to use the inverse operation routinely to check their work.

## 2. Estimate to check for reasonableness

Once students reach an answer, they can use estimation or rounding to see if the answer is reasonable. Round each number in the equation to a number that’s close and easy to work with, usually a multiple of ten. For example, if the question was 216 ÷ 18 and the quotient was 12, students might round 216 to 200 and round 18 to 20. Then use mental math to solve 200 ÷ 20, which is 10. When the estimate is clear the two numbers are close. This means your answer is reasonable.

## 3. Plug-In Method

This method is particularly useful for algebraic equations. Specifically when working with variables. To use the plug-in method, students solve the problem as asked and arrive at an answer. They can then plug the answer into the original equation to see if it works. If it does, the answer is correct.

If students use the equation 20m+80=300 to solve this problem and find that m = 11, they can plug that value back into the equation to see if it is correct. 20m + 80 = 300 20 (11) + 80 = 300 220 + 80 = 300 300 = 300 ✓

## 4. Peer Review

Peer review is a great tool to use at any grade level as it promotes critical thinking and collaboration between students. The reviewers can look at the problem from a different view as they check to see if the problem was solved correctly. Problem solvers receive immediate feedback and the opportunity to discuss their thinking with their peers. This strategy is effective with mixed-ability partners or similar-ability partners. In mixed-ability groups, the partner with stronger skills provides guidance and support to the partner with weaker skills, while reinforcing their own understanding of the content and communication skills. If partners have comparable ability levels and problem-solving skills, they may find that they approach problems differently or have unique insights to offer each other about the problem-solving process.

## 5. Use a Calculator

A calculator can be introduced at any grade level but may be best for older students who already have a foundational understanding of basic math operations. Provide students with a calculator to allow them to check their solutions independently, accurately, and quickly. Since calculators are so readily available on smartphones and tablets, they allow students to develop practical skills that apply to real-world situations.

## Step-by-step problem-solving processes for your classroom

In his book, How to Solve It , published in 1945, mathematician George Polya introduced a 4-step process to solve problems.

Polya’s 4 steps include:

- Understand the problem
- Devise a plan
- Carry out the plan

Today, in the style of George Polya, many problem-solving strategies use various acronyms and steps to help students recall.

Many teachers create posters and anchor charts of their chosen process to display in their classrooms. They can be implemented in any elementary, middle school or high school classroom.

Here are 5 problem-solving strategies to introduce to students and use in the classroom.

## How Third Space Learning improves problem-solving

Resources .

Third Space Learning offers a free resource library is filled with hundreds of high-quality resources. A team of experienced math experts carefully created each resource to develop students mental arithmetic, problem solving and critical thinking.

Explore the range of problem solving resources for 2nd to 8th grade students.

## One-on-one tutoring

Third Space Learning offers one-on-one math tutoring to help students improve their math skills. Highly qualified tutors deliver high-quality lessons aligned to state standards.

Former teachers and math experts write all of Third Space Learning’s tutoring lessons. Expertly designed lessons follow a “my turn, follow me, your turn” pedagogy to help students move from guided instruction and problem-solving to independent practice.

Throughout each lesson, tutors ask higher-level thinking questions to promote critical thinking and ensure students are developing a deep understanding of the content and problem-solving skills.

## Problem-solving

Educators can use many different strategies to teach problem-solving and help students develop and carry out a plan when solving math problems. Incorporate these math strategies into any math program and use them with a variety of math concepts, from whole numbers and fractions to algebra.

Teaching students how to choose and implement problem-solving strategies helps them develop mathematical reasoning skills and critical thinking they can apply to real-life problem-solving.

READ MORE :

- 8 Common Core math examples
- Tier 3 Interventions: A School Leaders Guide
- Tier 2 Interventions: A School Leaders Guide
- Tier 1 Interventions: A School Leaders Guide

There are many different strategies for problem-solving; Here are 5 problem-solving strategies: • draw a model • act it out • work backwards • write a number sentence • use a formula

Here are 10 strategies for problem-solving: • Read the problem aloud • Highlight keywords • Summarize the information • Determine the unknown • Make a plan • Draw a model • Act it out • Work backwards • Write a number sentence • Use a formula

1. Understand the problem 2. Devise a plan 3. Carry out the plan 4. Look back

Some strategies you can use to solve challenging math problems are: breaking the problem into smaller parts, using diagrams or models, applying logical reasoning, and trying different approaches.

## Related articles

Why Student Centered Learning Is Important: A Guide For Educators

13 Effective Learning Strategies: A Guide to Using them in your Math Classroom

Differentiated Instruction: 9 Differentiated Curriculum And Instruction Strategies For Teachers

5 Math Mastery Strategies To Incorporate Into Your 4th and 5th Grade Classrooms

## Ultimate Guide to Metacognition [FREE]

Looking for a summary on metacognition in relation to math teaching and learning?

Check out this guide featuring practical examples, tips and strategies to successfully embed metacognition across your school to accelerate math growth.

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## Problem-Solving Strategies

October 16, 2019

There are many different ways to solve a math problem, and equipping students with problem-solving strategies is just as important as teaching computation and algorithms. Problem-solving strategies help students visualize the problem or present the given information in a way that can lead them to the solution. Solving word problems using strategies works great as a number talks activity and helps to revise many skills.

## Problem-solving strategies

1. create a diagram/picture, 2. guess and check., 3. make a table or a list., 4. logical reasoning., 5. find a pattern, 6. work backward, 1. create a diagram/draw a picture.

Creating a diagram helps students visualize the problem and reach the solution. A diagram can be a picture with labels, or a representation of the problem with objects that can be manipulated. Role-playing and acting out the problem like a story can help get to the solution.

Alice spent 3/4 of her babysitting money on comic books. She is left with $6. How much money did she make from babysitting?

## 2. Guess and check

Teach students the same strategy research mathematicians use.

With this strategy, students solve problems by making a reasonable guess depending on the information given. Then they check to see if the answer is correct and they improve it accordingly. By repeating this process, a student can arrive at a correct answer that has been checked. It is recommended that the students keep a record of their guesses by making a chart, a table or a list. This is a flexible strategy that works for many types of problems. When students are stuck, guessing and checking helps them start and explore the problem. However, there is a trap. Exactly because it is such a simple strategy to use, some students find it difficult to consider other strategies. As problems get more complicated, other strategies become more important and more effective.

Find two numbers that have sum 11 and product 24.

Try/guess 5 and 6 the product is 30 too high

adjust to 4 and 7 with product 28 still high

adjust again 3 and 8 product 24

## 3. Make a table or a list

Carefully organize the information on a table or list according to the problem information. It might be a table of numbers, a table with ticks and crosses to solve a logic problem or a list of possible answers. Seeing the given information sorted out on a table or a list will help find patterns and lead to the correct solution.

To make sure you are listing all the information correctly read the problem carefully.

Find the common factors of 24, 30 and 18

Logical reasoning is the process of using logical, systemic steps to arrive at a conclusion based on given facts and mathematic principles. Read and understand the problem. Then find the information that helps you start solving the problem. Continue with each piece of information and write possible answers.

Thomas, Helen, Bill, and Mary have cats that are black, brown, white, or gray. The cats’ names are Buddy, Lucky, Fifi, and Moo. Buddy is brown. Thoma’s cat, Lucky, is not gray. Helen’s cat is white but is not named Moo. The gray cat belongs to Bill. Which cat belongs to each student, and what is its color?

A table or list is useful in solving logic problems.

Thomas | Lucky | Not gray, the cat is black |

Helen | Not Moo, not Buddy, not Lucky so Fifi | White |

Bill | Moo | Gray |

Mary | Buddy | Brown |

Since Lucky is not gray it can be black or brown. However, Buddy is brown so Lucky has to be black.

Buddy is brown so it cannot be Helen’s cat. Helen’s cat cannot be Moo, Buddy or Lucky, so it is Fifi.

Therefore, Moo is Bill’s cat and Buddy is Mary’s cat.

## 5. Find a pattern.

Finding a pattern is a strategy in which students look for patterns in the given information in order to solve the problem. When the problem consists of data like numbers or events that are repeated then it can be solved using the “find a pattern” problem-solving strategy. Data can be organized in a table or a list to reveal the pattern and help discover the “rule” of the pattern.

The “rule” can then be used to find the answer to the question and complete the table/list.

Shannon’s Pizzeria made 5 pizzas on Sunday, 10 pizzas on Monday, 20 pizzas on Tuesday, and 40 pizzas on Wednesday. If this pattern continues, how many pizzas will the pizzeria make on Saturday?

Sunday | 5 |

Monday | 10 |

Tuesday | 20 |

Wednesday | 40 |

Thursday | |

Friday | |

Saturday |

## 6. Working backward

Problems that can be solved with this strategy are the ones that list a series of events or a sequence of steps .

In this strategy, the students must start with the solution and work back to the beginning. Each operation must be reversed to get back to the beginning. So if working forwards requires addition, when students work backward they will need to subtract. And if they multiply working forwards, they must divide when working backward.

Mom bought a box of candy. Mary took 5 of them, Nick took 4 of them and 31 were given out on Halloween night. The next morning they found 8 pieces of candy in the box. How many candy pieces were in the box when mom bought it.

For this problem, we know that the final number of candy was 8, so if we work backward to “put back” the candy that was taken from the box we can reach the number of candy pieces that were in the box, to begin with.

The candy was taken away so we will normally subtract them. However, to get back to the original number of candy we need to work backward and do the opposite, which is to add them.

8 candy pieces were left + the 31 given out + plus the ones Mary took + the ones Nick took

8+31+5+4= 48 Answer: The box came with 48 pieces of candy.

Selecting the best strategy for a problem comes with practice and often problems will require the use of more than one strategies.

## Print and digital activities

I have created a collection of print and digital activity cards and worksheets with word problems (print and google slides) to solve using the strategies above. The collection includes 70 problems (5 challenge ones) and their solution s and explanations.

sample below

How to use the activity cards

Allow the students to use manipulatives to solve the problems. (counters, shapes, lego blocks, Cuisenaire blocks, base 10 blocks, clocks) They can use manipulatives to create a picture and visualize the problem. They can use counters for the guess and check strategy. Discuss which strategy/strategies are better for solving each problem. Discuss the different ways. Use the activities as warm-ups, number talks, initiate discussions, group work, challenge, escape rooms, and more.

Ask your students to write their own problems using the problems in this resource, and more, as examples. Start with a simple type. Students learn a lot when trying to compose a problem. They can share the problem with their partner or the whole class. Make a collection of problems to share with another class.

For the google slides the students can use text boxes to explain their thinking with words, add shapes and lines to create diagrams, and add (insert) tables and diagrams.

Many of the problems can be solved faster by using algebraic expressions. However, since I created this resource for grades 4 and up I chose to show simple conceptual ways of solving the problems using the strategies above. You can suggest different ways of solving the problems based on the grade level.

Find the free and premium versions of the resource below. The premium version includes 70 problems (challenge problems included) and their solutions

There are 2 versions of the resource

70 google slides with explanations + 70 printable task cards

70 google slides with explanations + 11 worksheets

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## Math Problem Solving Strategies That Make Students Say “I Get It!”

Even students who are quick with math facts can get stuck when it comes to problem solving.

As soon as a concept is translated to a word problem, or a simple mathematical sentence contains an unknown, they’re stumped.

That’s because problem solving requires us to consciously choose the strategies most appropriate for the problem at hand . And not all students have this metacognitive ability.

But you can teach these strategies for problem solving. You just need to know what they are.

We’ve compiled them here divided into four categories:

## Strategies for understanding a problem

Strategies for solving the problem, strategies for working out, strategies for checking the solution.

Get to know these strategies and then model them explicitly to your students. Next time they dive into a rich problem, they’ll be filling up their working out paper faster than ever!

Before students can solve a problem, they need to know what it’s asking them. This is often the first hurdle with word problems that don’t specify a particular mathematical operation.

Encourage your students to:

## Read and reread the question

They say they’ve read it, but have they really ? Sometimes students will skip ahead as soon as they’ve noticed one familiar piece of information or give up trying to understand it if the problem doesn’t make sense at first glance.

Teach students to interpret a question by using self-monitoring strategies such as:

- Rereading a question more slowly if it doesn’t make sense the first time
- Asking for help
- Highlighting or underlining important pieces of information.

## Identify important and extraneous information

John is collecting money for his friend Ari’s birthday. He starts with $5 of his own, then Marcus gives him another $5. How much does he have now?

As adults looking at the above problem, we can instantly look past the names and the birthday scenario to see a simple addition problem. Students, however, can struggle to determine what’s relevant in the information that’s been given to them.

Teach students to sort and sift the information in a problem to find what’s relevant. A good way to do this is to have them swap out pieces of information to see if the solution changes. If changing names, items or scenarios has no impact on the end result, they’ll realize that it doesn’t need to be a point of focus while solving the problem.

## Schema approach

This is a math intervention strategy that can make problem solving easier for all students, regardless of ability.

Compare different word problems of the same type and construct a formula, or mathematical sentence stem, that applies to them all. For example, a simple subtraction problems could be expressed as:

[Number/Quantity A] with [Number/Quantity B] removed becomes [end result].

This is the underlying procedure or schema students are being asked to use. Once they have a list of schema for different mathematical operations (addition, multiplication and so on), they can take turns to apply them to an unfamiliar word problem and see which one fits.

Struggling students often believe math is something you either do automatically or don’t do at all. But that’s not true. Help your students understand that they have a choice of problem-solving strategies to use, and if one doesn’t work, they can try another.

Here are four common strategies students can use for problem solving.

## Visualizing

Visualizing an abstract problem often makes it easier to solve. Students could draw a picture or simply draw tally marks on a piece of working out paper.

Encourage visualization by modeling it on the whiteboard and providing graphic organizers that have space for students to draw before they write down the final number.

## Guess and check

Show students how to make an educated guess and then plug this answer back into the original problem. If it doesn’t work, they can adjust their initial guess higher or lower accordingly.

## Find a pattern

To find patterns, show students how to extract and list all the relevant facts in a problem so they can be easily compared. If they find a pattern, they’ll be able to locate the missing piece of information.

## Work backward

Working backward is useful if students are tasked with finding an unknown number in a problem or mathematical sentence. For example, if the problem is 8 + x = 12, students can find x by:

- Starting with 12
- Taking the 8 from the 12
- Being left with 4
- Checking that 4 works when used instead of x

Now students have understood the problem and formulated a strategy, it’s time to put it into practice. But if they just launch in and do it, they might make it harder for themselves. Show them how to work through a problem effectively by:

## Documenting working out

Model the process of writing down every step you take to complete a math problem and provide working out paper when students are solving a problem. This will allow students to keep track of their thoughts and pick up errors before they reach a final solution.

## Check along the way

Checking work as you go is another crucial self-monitoring strategy for math learners. Model it to them with think aloud questions such as:

- Does that last step look right?
- Does this follow on from the step I took before?
- Have I done any ‘smaller’ sums within the bigger problem that need checking?

Students often make the mistake of thinking that speed is everything in math — so they’ll rush to get an answer down and move on without checking.

But checking is important too. It allows them to pinpoint areas of difficulty as they come up, and it enables them to tackle more complex problems that require multiple checks before arriving at a final answer.

Here are some checking strategies you can promote:

## Check with a partner

Comparing answers with a peer leads is a more reflective process than just receiving a tick from the teacher. If students have two different answers, encourage them to talk about how they arrived at them and compare working out methods. They’ll figure out exactly where they went wrong, and what they got right.

## Reread the problem with your solution

Most of the time, students will be able to tell whether or not their answer is correct by putting it back into the initial problem. If it doesn’t work or it just ‘looks wrong’, it’s time to go back and fix it up.

## Fixing mistakes

Show students how to backtrack through their working out to find the exact point where they made a mistake. Emphasize that they can’t do this if they haven’t written down everything in the first place — so a single answer with no working out isn’t as impressive as they might think!

## Need more help developing problem solving skills?

Read up on how to set a problem solving and reasoning activity or explore Mathseeds and Mathletics, our award winning online math programs. They’ve got over 900 teacher tested problem solving activities between them!

## Get access to 900+ unique problem solving activities

You might like....

## 5 Strategies for Successful Problem Solving

- Powerful teaching strategies
- December 26, 2023
- Michaela Epstein

Blog > 5 Strategies for Successful Problem Solving

Problem solving can change the way students see maths – and how they see themselves as maths learners.

But, it's tough to help all students get the most out of a task.

To help, here are 5 Strategies for Problem Solving Success.

These are 5 valuable lessons I've learned from working with teachers across the globe . You can use these strategies with all your students, no matter their level.

## 5 Strategies for Problem Solving Success

Your own enthusiasm is quickly picked up by your students. So, choose a problem, puzzle or game that you’re excited and curious about.

How do you know what will spark your curiosity? Do the task yourself!

(That’s why, in the workshops I run , we spend a lot of time actually exploring problems. It’s a chance to step into students' shoes and experience maths from their perspective.)

Often, curriculum content becomes the goal of problem solving. For example, adding fractions, calculating areas or solving quadratic equations.

But, this is a mistake! Here's why-

Low floor, high ceiling tasks give students choices. Choices about what strategies to use, tools to draw on – and even what end-points to get to.

The most valuable goals focus on building confidence and capability in problem solving. For example:

- To make and break conjectures
- To use and evaluate different strategies
- To organise data in meaningful ways
- To explain and justify their conclusions.

The start of a task is what will get your students curious and hungry to get underway.

Consider: What's the least information your students will need?

At our Members' online PL sessions , we look at one of four possibilities for launching a problem:

- Present a mystery to explore
- Present an example and non-example
- Run a demonstration game
- Show how to use a tool.

Keep the launch short – under 5 minutes. This is just enough to keep students’ attention AND share essential information.

Let’s face it, problem solving is hard, no matter your age or mathematical skill set.

Students aren’t afraid of hard work – they’re afraid of feeling or looking stupid. And, when those tricky maths moments do come, you can help.

Using questions, tools and other prompts can bring clarity and boost confidence.

(Here's a free question catalogue you might find handy to have in your back pocket.)

This careful support will help your students find problem solving far less daunting. Instead, it can become a chance for wonderous mathematical exploration.

Picture this: Your students are elbows deep in a problem, there’s a buzz in the air – oh, and only a minute until the bell.

The most important stage of a problem solving task – right at the end – is often the one that gets dropped off.

Why does ‘wrapping up’ matter?

In the last 10 minutes of a problem, students can share conjectures, strategies and solutions. It's also a chance to consider new questions that may open up further exploration.

In wrapping up, important learning will happen. Your students will observe patterns, make connections and clarify conjectures. You might even notice ‘aha’ moments.

Five strategies for problem solving success:

- Choose a task that YOU'RE keen on,
- Set a goal for strengthening problem solving skills,
- Plan a short launch to make the task widely accessible,
- Use questions, tools and prompts to support productive exploration, and
- Wrap up to create space for pivotal learning.

## Join the Conversation

Dear Michaela, Greetings !! Thank you for sharing the strategies for problem solving task. These strategies will definitely enhance the skill in the mindset of young learners. In India ,Students of Grade 9 and Grade 10 have to learn and solve lot of theorems of triangle, Quadrilateral, Circle etc. Being an educator I have noticed that most of the students learn the theorems and it’s derivation by heart as a result they lack in understanding the application of these theorems.

I will appreciate if you can share your insights as how to make these topics interesting and easy to grasp.

Once again thanks for sharing such informative ideas.

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Khan Academy Blog

## Unlocking the Power of Math Learning: Strategies and Tools for Success

posted on September 20, 2023

Mathematics, the foundation of all sciences and technology, plays a fundamental role in our everyday lives. Yet many students find the subject challenging, causing them to shy away from it altogether. This reluctance is often due to a lack of confidence, a misunderstanding of unclear concepts, a move ahead to more advanced skills before they are ready, and ineffective learning methods. However, with the right approach, math learning can be both rewarding and empowering. This post will explore different approaches to learning math, strategies for success, and cutting-edge tools to help you achieve your goals.

## Math Learning

Math learning can take many forms, including traditional classroom instruction, online courses, and self-directed learning. A multifaceted approach to math learning can improve understanding, engage students, and promote subject mastery. A 2014 study by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics found that the use of multiple representations, such as visual aids, graphs, and real-world examples, supports the development of mathematical connections, reasoning, and problem-solving skills.

Moreover, the importance of math learning goes beyond solving equations and formulas. Advanced math skills are essential for success in many fields, including science, engineering, finance, health care, and technology. In fact, a report by Burning Glass Technologies found that 71% of high-salary, entry-level positions require advanced math skills.

## Benefits of Math Learning

In today’s 21st-century world, having a broad knowledge base and strong reading and math skills is essential. Mathematical literacy plays a crucial role in this success. It empowers individuals to comprehend the world around them and make well-informed decisions based on data-driven understanding. More than just earning good grades in math, mathematical literacy is a vital life skill that can open doors to economic opportunities, improve financial management, and foster critical thinking. We’re not the only ones who say so:

- Math learning enhances problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and logical reasoning abilities. (Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics )
- It improves analytical skills that can be applied in various real-life situations, such as budgeting or analyzing data. (Source: Southern New Hampshire University )
- Math learning promotes creativity and innovation by fostering a deep understanding of patterns and relationships. (Source: Purdue University )
- It provides a strong foundation for careers in fields such as engineering, finance, computer science, and more. These careers generally correlate to high wages. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics )
- Math skills are transferable and can be applied across different academic disciplines. (Source: Sydney School of Education and Social Work )

## How to Know What Math You Need to Learn

Often students will find gaps in their math knowledge; this can occur at any age or skill level. As math learning is generally iterative, a solid foundation and understanding of the math skills that preceded current learning are key to success. The solution to these gaps is called mastery learning, the philosophy that underpins Khan Academy’s approach to education .

Mastery learning is an educational philosophy that emphasizes the importance of a student fully understanding a concept before moving on to the next one. Rather than rushing students through a curriculum, mastery learning asks educators to ensure that learners have “mastered” a topic or skill, showing a high level of proficiency and understanding, before progressing. This approach is rooted in the belief that all students can learn given the appropriate learning conditions and enough time, making it a markedly student-centered method. It promotes thoroughness over speed and encourages individualized learning paths, thus catering to the unique learning needs of each student.

Students will encounter mastery learning passively as they go through Khan Academy coursework, as our platform identifies gaps and systematically adjusts to support student learning outcomes. More details can be found in our Educators Hub .

## Try Our Free Confidence Boosters

How to learn math.

Learning at School

One of the most common methods of math instruction is classroom learning. In-class instruction provides students with real-time feedback, practical application, and a peer-learning environment. Teachers can personalize instruction by assessing students’ strengths and weaknesses, providing remediation when necessary, and offering advanced instruction to students who need it.

Learning at Home

Supplemental learning at home can complement traditional classroom instruction. For example, using online resources that provide additional practice opportunities, interactive games, and demonstrations, can help students consolidate learning outside of class. E-learning has become increasingly popular, with a wealth of online resources available to learners of all ages. The benefits of online learning include flexibility, customization, and the ability to work at one’s own pace. One excellent online learning platform is Khan Academy, which offers free video tutorials, interactive practice exercises, and a wealth of resources across a range of mathematical topics.

Moreover, parents can encourage and monitor progress, answer questions, and demonstrate practical applications of math in everyday life. For example, when at the grocery store, parents can ask their children to help calculate the price per ounce of two items to discover which one is the better deal. Cooking and baking with your children also provides a lot of opportunities to use math skills, like dividing a recipe in half or doubling the ingredients.

Learning Math with the Help of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI-powered tools are changing the way students learn math. Personalized feedback and adaptive practice help target individual needs. Virtual tutors offer real-time help with math concepts while AI algorithms identify areas for improvement. Custom math problems provide tailored practice, and natural language processing allows for instant question-and-answer sessions.

Using Khan Academy’s AI Tutor, Khanmigo

Transform your child’s grasp of mathematics with Khanmigo , the 24/7 AI-powered tutor that specializes in tailored, one-on-one math instruction. Available at any time, Khanmigo provides personalized support that goes beyond mere answers to nurture genuine mathematical understanding and critical thinking. Khanmigo can track progress, identify strengths and weaknesses, and offer real-time feedback to help students stay on the right track. Within a secure and ethical AI framework, your child can tackle everything from basic arithmetic to complex calculus, all while you maintain oversight using robust parental controls.

## Get Math Help with Khanmigo Right Now

You can learn anything .

Math learning is essential for success in the modern world, and with the right approach, it can also be enjoyable and rewarding. Learning math requires curiosity, diligence, and the ability to connect abstract concepts with real-world applications. Strategies for effective math learning include a multifaceted approach, including classroom instruction, online courses, homework, tutoring, and personalized AI support.

So, don’t let math anxiety hold you back; take advantage of available resources and technology to enhance your knowledge base and enjoy the benefits of math learning.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, “Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All” , April 2014

Project Lead The Way Research Report, “The Power of Transportable Skills: Assessing the Demand and Value of the Skills of the Future” , 2020

Page. M, “Why Develop Quantitative and Qualitative Data Analysis Skills?” , 2016

Mann. EL, Creativity: The Essence of Mathematics, Journal for the Education of the Gifted. Vol. 30, No. 2, 2006, pp. 236–260, http://www.prufrock.com ’

Nakakoji Y, Wilson R.” Interdisciplinary Learning in Mathematics and Science: Transfer of Learning for 21st Century Problem Solving at University ”. J Intell. 2020 Sep 1;8(3):32. doi: 10.3390/jintelligence8030032. PMID: 32882908; PMCID: PMC7555771.

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## A Math Word Problem Framework That Fosters Conceptual Thinking

This strategy for selecting and teaching word problems guides students to develop their understanding of math concepts.

Word problems in mathematics are a powerful tool for helping students make sense of and reason with mathematical concepts. Many students, however, struggle with word problems because of the various cognitive demands. As districtwide STEAM professional development specialists, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on supporting our colleagues and students to ensure their success with word problems. We found that selecting the right word problems, as well as focusing on conceptual understanding rather than procedural knowledge, provides our students with real growth.

As our thinking evolved, we began to instill a routine that supports teaching students to solve with grit by putting them in the driver’s seat of the thinking. Below you’ll find the routine that we’ve found successful in helping students overcome the challenges of solving word problems.

## Not all word problems are created equal

Prior to any instruction, we always consider the quality of the task for teaching and learning. In our process, we use word problems as the path to mathematics instruction. When selecting the mathematical tasks for students, we always consider the following questions:

- Does the task align with the learning goals and standards?
- Will the task engage and challenge students at an appropriate level, providing both a sense of accomplishment and further opportunities for growth?
- Is the task open or closed? Open tasks provide multiple pathways to foster a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and skills. Closed tasks can still provide a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and skills if the task requires a high level of cognitive demand.
- Does the task encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills?
- Will the task allow students to see the relevance of mathematics to real-world situations?
- Does the task promote creativity and encourage students to make connections between mathematical concepts and other areas of their lives?

If we can answer yes to as many of these questions as possible, we can be assured that our tasks are rich. There are further insights for rich math tasks on NRICH and sample tasks on Illustrative Mathematics and K-5 Math Teaching Resources .

## Developing conceptual understanding

Once we’ve selected the rich math tasks, developing conceptual understanding becomes our instructional focus. We present students with Numberless Word Problems and simultaneously use a word problem framework to focus on analysis of the text and to build conceptual understanding, rather than just memorization of formulas and procedures.

- First we remove all of the numbers and have students read the problem focusing on who or what the problem is about; they visualize and connect the scenario to their lives and experiences.
- Next we have our students rewrite the question as a statement to ensure that they understand the questions.
- Then we have our students read the problem again and have them think analytically. They ask themselves these questions: Are there parts? Is there a whole? Are things joining or separating? Is there a comparison?
- Once that’s completed, we reveal the numbers in the problem. We have the students read the problem again to determine if they have enough information to develop a model and translate it into an equation that can be solved.
- After they’ve solved their equation, we have students compare it against their model to check their answer.

## Collaboration and workspace are key to building the thinking

To build the thinking necessary in the math classroom , we have students work in visibly random collaborative groups (random groups of three for grades 3 through 12, random groups of two for grades 1 and 2). With random groupings, we’ve found that students don’t enter their groups with predetermined roles, and all students contribute to the thinking.

For reluctant learners, we make sure these students serve as the scribe within the group documenting each member’s contribution. We also make sure to use nonpermanent vertical workspaces (whiteboards, windows [using dry-erase markers], large adhesive-backed chart paper, etc.). The vertical workspace provides accessibility for our diverse learners and promotes problem-solving because our students break down complex problems into smaller, manageable steps. The vertical workspaces also provide a visually appealing and organized way for our students to show their work. We’ve witnessed how these workspaces help hold their attention and improve their focus on the task at hand.

## Facilitate and provide feedback to move the thinking along

As students grapple with the task, the teacher floats among the collaborative groups, facilitates conversations, and gives the students feedback. Students are encouraged to look at the work of other groups or to provide a second strategy or model to support their thinking. Students take ownership and make sense of the problem, attempt solutions, and try to support their thinking with models, equations, charts, graphs, words, etc. They work through the problem collaboratively, justifying their work in their small group. In essence, they’re constructing their knowledge and preparing to share their work with the rest of the class.

Word problems are a powerful tool for teaching math concepts to students. They offer a practical and relatable approach to problem-solving, enabling students to understand the relevance of math in real-life situations. Through word problems, students learn to apply mathematical principles and logical reasoning to solve complex problems.

Moreover, word problems also enhance critical thinking, analytical skills, and decision-making abilities. Incorporating word problems into math lessons is an effective way to make math engaging, meaningful, and applicable to everyday life.

## Problem Solving Activities: 7 Strategies

- Critical Thinking

Problem solving can be a daunting aspect of effective mathematics teaching, but it does not have to be! In this post, I share seven strategic ways to integrate problem solving into your everyday math program.

In the middle of our problem solving lesson, my district math coordinator stopped by for a surprise walkthrough.

I was so excited!

We were in the middle of what I thought was the most brilliant math lesson– teaching my students how to solve problem solving tasks using specific problem solving strategies.

It was a proud moment for me!

Each week, I presented a new problem solving strategy and the students completed problems that emphasized the strategy.

Genius right?

After observing my class, my district coordinator pulled me aside to chat. I was excited to talk to her about my brilliant plan, but she told me I should provide the tasks and let my students come up with ways to solve the problems. Then, as students shared their work, I could revoice the student’s strategies and give them an official name.

What a crushing blow! Just when I thought I did something special, I find out I did it all wrong.

I took some time to consider her advice. Once I acknowledged she was right, I was able to make BIG changes to the way I taught problem solving in the classroom.

## When I Finally Saw the Light

To give my students an opportunity to engage in more authentic problem solving which would lead them to use a larger variety of problem solving strategies, I decided to vary the activities and the way I approached problem solving with my students.

## Problem Solving Activities

Here are seven ways to strategically reinforce problem solving skills in your classroom.

## Seasonal Problem Solving

Many teachers use word problems as problem solving tasks. Instead, try engaging your students with non-routine tasks that look like word problems but require more than the use of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to complete. Seasonal problem solving tasks and daily challenges are a perfect way to celebrate the season and have a little fun too!

## Cooperative Problem Solving Tasks

Go cooperative! If you’ve got a few extra minutes, have students work on problem solving tasks in small groups. After working through the task, students create a poster to help explain their solution process and then post their poster around the classroom. Students then complete a gallery walk of the posters in the classroom and provide feedback via sticky notes or during a math talk session.

## Notice and Wonder

Before beginning a problem solving task, such as a seasonal problem solving task, conduct a Notice and Wonder session. To do this, ask students what they notice about the problem. Then, ask them what they wonder about the problem. This will give students an opportunity to highlight the unique characteristics and conditions of the problem as they try to make sense of it.

Want a better experience? Remove the stimulus, or question, and allow students to wonder about the problem. Try it! You’ll gain some great insight into how your students think about a problem.

## Math Starters

Start your math block with a math starter, critical thinking activities designed to get your students thinking about math and provide opportunities to “sneak” in grade-level content and skills in a fun and engaging way. These tasks are quick, designed to take no more than five minutes, and provide a great way to turn-on your students’ brains. Read more about math starters here !

Create your own puzzle box! The puzzle box is a set of puzzles and math challenges I use as fast finisher tasks for my students when they finish an assignment or need an extra challenge. The box can be a file box, file crate, or even a wall chart. It includes a variety of activities so all students can find a challenge that suits their interests and ability level.

## Calculators

Use calculators! For some reason, this tool is not one many students get to use frequently; however, it’s important students have a chance to practice using it in the classroom. After all, almost everyone has access to a calculator on their cell phones. There are also some standardized tests that allow students to use them, so it’s important for us to practice using calculators in the classroom. Plus, calculators can be fun learning tools all by themselves!

## Three-Act Math Tasks

Use a three-act math task to engage students with a content-focused, real-world problem! These math tasks were created with math modeling in mind– students are presented with a scenario and then given clues and hints to help them solve the problem. There are several sites where you can find these awesome math tasks, including Dan Meyer’s Three-Act Math Tasks and Graham Fletcher’s 3-Acts Lessons .

## Getting the Most from Each of the Problem Solving Activities

When students participate in problem solving activities, it is important to ask guiding, not leading, questions. This provides students with the support necessary to move forward in their thinking and it provides teachers with a more in-depth understanding of student thinking. Selecting an initial question and then analyzing a student’s response tells teachers where to go next.

Ready to jump in? Grab a free set of problem solving challenges like the ones pictured using the form below.

Which of the problem solving activities will you try first? Respond in the comments below.

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This is a very cool site. I hope it takes off and is well received by teachers. I work in mathematical problem solving and help prepare pre-service teachers in mathematics.

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## 10 Strategies for Problem-Solving in Math

reviewed by Jo-ann Caballes

Updated on August 21, 2024

It’s not surprising that kids who lack problem-solving skills feel stuck in math class. Students who are behind in problem-solving may have difficulties identifying and carrying out a plan of action to solve a problem. Math strategies for problem-solving allow children to use a range of approaches to work out math problems productively and with ease. This article explores math problem-solving strategies and how kids can use them both in traditional classes and in a virtual classroom.

## What are problem-solving strategies in math?

Problem-solving strategies for math make it easier to tackle math and work up an effective solution. When we face any kind of problem, it’s usually impossible to solve it without carrying out a good plan.In other words, these strategies were designed to make math for kids easier and more manageable. Another great benefit of these strategies is that kids can spend less time cracking math problems.

## Here are some problem-solving methods:

- Drawing a picture or diagram (helps visualize the problem)
- Breaking the problem into smaller parts (to keep track of what has been done)
- Making a table or a list (helps students to organize information)

When children have a toolkit of math problem-solving strategies at hand, it makes it easier for them to excel in math and progress faster.

## How to solve math problems?

To solve math problems, it’s worth having strategies for math problem-solving that include several steps, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are failproof. They serve as a guide to the solution when it’s difficult to decide where and how to start. Research suggests that breaking down complex problems into smaller stages can reduce cognitive load and make it easier for students to solve problems. Essentially, a suitable strategy can help kids to find the right answers fast.

Here are 5 math problem-solving strategies for kids:

- Recognize the Problem
- Work up a Plan
- Carry Out the Plan
- Review the Work
- Reflect and Analyze

## Understanding the Problem

Understanding the problem is the first step in the journey of solving it. Without doing this, kids won’t be able to address it in any way. In the beginning, it’s important to read the problem carefully and make sure to understand every part of it. Next, when kids know what they are asked to do, they have to write down the information they have and determine what essentially they need to solve.

## Work Out a Plan

Working out a plan is one of the most important steps to solving math problems. Here, the kid has to choose a good strategy that will help them with a specific math problem. Outline these steps either in mind or on paper.

## Carry Out the Plan

Being methodical at that stage is key. It involves following the plan and performing calculations with the correct operations and rules. Finally, when the work is done, the child can review and show their work to a teacher or tutor.

## Review the Work

This is where checking if the answer is correct takes place. If time allows, children and the teacher can choose other methods and try to solve the same problem again with a different approach.

## Reflect and Analyze

This stage is a great opportunity to think about how the problem was solved: did any part cause confusion? Was there a more efficient method? It’s important to let the child know that they can use the insights gained for future reference.

## Ways to solve math problems

The ways to solve math problems for kids are numerous, but it doesn’t mean they all work the same for everybody. For example, some children may find visual strategies work best for them; some prefer acting out the problem using movements. Finding what kind of method or strategy works best for your kid will be extremely beneficial both for school performance and in real-life scenarios where they can apply problem-solving.

Online tutoring platforms like Brighterly offer personalized assistance, interactive tools, and access to resources that help to determine which strategies are best for your child. Expertise-driven tutors know how to guide your kid so they won’t be stuck with the same fallacies that interfere with effective problem-solving. For example, tutors can assist kids with drawing a diagram, acting a problem out with movement, or working backward. All of these ways are highly effective, especially with a trusted supporter by your side.

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## What are 10 strategies for solving math problems?

There are plenty of different problem-solving strategies for mathematical problems to help kids discover answers. Let’s explore 10 popular problem-solving strategies:

## Understand the Problem

Figuring out the nature of math problems is the key to solving them. Kids need to identify what kind of issue this is (fraction problem, word problem, quadratic equation, etc.) and work up a plan to solve it.

## Guess and Check

With this approach, kids simply need to keep guessing until they get the answer right. While this approach may seem irrelevant, it illustrates what the kid’s thinking process is.

## Work It Out

This method encourages students to write down or say their problem-solving process instead of going straight to solving it without preparation. This minimizes the probability of mistakes.

## Work Backwords

Working backward is a great problem-solving strategy to acquire a fresh perspective. It requires one to come up with a probable solution and decide which step to take to come to that solution.

A visual representation of a math problem may help kids to understand it in full. One way to visualize a problem is to use a blank piece of paper and draw a picture, including all of the aspects of the issue.

## Find a Pattern

By helping students see patterns in math problems, we help them to extract and list relevant details. This method is very effective in learning shapes and other topics that need repetition.

It may be self-explanatory, but it’s quite helpful to ask, “What are some possible solutions to this issue?”. By giving kids time to think and reflect, we help them to develop creative and critical thinking.

## Draw a Picture or Diagram

Instead of drawing the math problem yourself, ask the kid to draw it themselves. They can draw pictures of the ideas they have been taught to help them remember the concepts better.

## Trial and Error Method

Not knowing clear formulas or instructions, kids won’t be able to solve anything. Ask them to make a list of possible answers based on rules they already know. Let them learn by making mistakes and trying to find a better solution.

## Review Answers with Peers

It’s so fun to solve problems alongside your peers. Kids can review their answers together and share ideas on how each problem can be solved.

## Help your kid achieve their full math potential

The best Brighterly tutors are ready to help with that.

## Math problem-solving strategies for elementary students

5 problem-solving strategies for elementary students include:

## Using Simple Language

Ask students to explain the problem in their own words to make sure they understand the problem correctly.

## Using Visuals and Manipulatives

Using drawing and manipulatives like counters, blocks, or beads can help students grasp the issue faster.

## Simplifying the Problem

Breaking the problem into a step-by-step process and smaller, manageable steps will allow students to find the solution faster.

## Looking for Patterns

Identifying patterns in numbers and operations is a great strategy to help students gain more confidence along the way.

## Using Stories

Turning math problems into stories will surely engage youngsters and make them participate more actively.

To recap, students need to have effective math problem-solving strategies up their sleeves. Not only does it help them in the classroom, but it’s also an essential skill for real-life situations. Productive problem-solving strategies for math vary depending on the grade. But what they have in common is that kids have to know how to break the issue into smaller parts and apply critical and creative thinking to solve it.

If you want your kid to learn how to thrive in STEM and apply problem-solving strategies to both math and real life, book a free demo lesson with Brighterly today! Make your child excited about math!

Jessica is a a seasoned math tutor with over a decade of experience in the field. With a BSc and Master’s degree in Mathematics, she enjoys nurturing math geniuses, regardless of their age, grade, and skills. Apart from tutoring, Jessica blogs at Brighterly. She also has experience in child psychology, homeschooling and curriculum consultation for schools and EdTech websites.

As adults, we take numbers for granted, but preschoolers and kindergartners have no idea what these symbols mean. Yet, we often demand instant understanding and flawless performance when we start teaching numbers to our children. If you don’t have a clue about how to teach numbers for kids, browse no more. You will get four […]

May 19, 2022

Teaching strategies aren’t something that is set in stone and continue to evolve every year. Even though traditional educational strategies like teachers teaching in front of the classroom seemed to work for decades with little to no adjustments, the digital age has brought along numerous challenges. Teaching methods for kids require new strategies, so educators […]

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## A Handbook of Extracurricular Activities for Children

When children aren’t studying or resting, they can look into different career options, develop passions, or find new ones by engaging in extracurricular activities. But unfortunately, there are a few misconceptions about extracurricular activities for kids and their role in a child’s life. So, stay with us as we dive into the types of extracurricular […]

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Every day, kids and adults alike encounter challenges that require mathematics. You need a basic knowledge of mathematics, whether you’re going to the grocery store or just want to count the coins you gave in your piggy bank. These are classic examples of locations and situations where you regularly engage your mathematical thinking capacity. At […]

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## Math and Special Education Blog

8 problem solving strategies for the math classroom.

Posted by Colleen Uscianowski · February 25, 2014

Would you draw a picture, make a list possible number pairs that have the ratio 5:3, or guess and check?

Explicit strategy instruction should be an integral part of your math classroom, whether you're teaching kindergarten or 12th grade.

Teach students that they can choose from a list of strategies to solve a problem, and often there isn't one correct way of finding a solution.

Demonstrate how you solve a word problem by thinking aloud as you choose and execute a strategy.

Ask students if they would solve the problem differently and praise students for coming up with unique ways of arriving at an answer.

## Here are some problem-solving strategies I've taught my students:

Below is a helpful chart to remind students of the many problem-solving strategies they can use when solving word problems. This useful handout is a great addition to students' strategy binders, math notebooks, or math journals.

How do you teach problem-solving in your classroom? Feel free to share advice and tips below!

## Sign up to receive a FREE copy of our problem-solving poster.

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## 10 Best Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems

## 1. Understand the Problem by Paraphrasing

2. identify key information and variables, 3. translate words into mathematical symbols, 4. break down the problem into manageable parts, 5. draw diagrams or visual representations, 6. use estimation to predict answers, 7. apply logical reasoning for unknown variables, 8. leverage similar problems as templates, 9. check answers in the context of the problem, 10. reflect and learn from mistakes.

Have you ever observed the look of confusion on a student’s face when they encounter a math word problem ? It’s a common sight in classrooms worldwide, underscoring the need for effective strategies for solving math word problems . The main hurdle in solving math word problems is not just the math itself but understanding how to translate the words into mathematical equations that can be solved.

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Generic advice like “read the problem carefully” or “practice more” often falls short in addressing students’ specific difficulties with word problems. Students need targeted math word problem strategies that address the root of their struggles head-on.

## A Guide on Steps to Solving Word Problems: 10 Strategies

One of the first steps in tackling a math word problem is to make sure your students understand what the problem is asking. Encourage them to paraphrase the problem in their own words. This means they rewrite the problem using simpler language or break it down into more digestible parts. Paraphrasing helps students grasp the concept and focus on the problem’s core elements without getting lost in the complex wording.

Original Problem: “If a farmer has 15 apples and gives away 8, how many does he have left?”

Paraphrased: “A farmer had some apples. He gave some away. Now, how many apples does he have?”

This paraphrasing helps students identify the main action (giving away apples) and what they need to find out (how many apples are left).

Play these subtraction word problem games in the classroom for free:

Explore More

Students often get overwhelmed by the details in word problems. Teach them to identify key information and variables essential for solving the problem. This includes numbers , operations ( addition , subtraction , multiplication , division ), and what the question is asking them to find. Highlighting or underlining can be very effective here. This visual differentiation can help students focus on what’s important, ignoring irrelevant details.

- Encourage students to underline numbers and circle keywords that indicate operations (like ‘total’ for addition and ‘left’ for subtraction).
- Teach them to write down what they’re solving for, such as “Find: Total apples left.”

Problem: “A classroom has 24 students. If 6 more students joined the class, how many students are there in total?”

Key Information:

- Original number of students (24)
- Students joined (6)
- Looking for the total number of students

Here are some fun addition word problems that your students can play for free:

The transition from the language of word problems to the language of mathematics is a critical skill. Teach your students to convert words into mathematical symbols and equations. This step is about recognizing keywords and phrases corresponding to mathematical operations and expressions .

Common Translations:

- “Total,” “sum,” “combined” → Addition (+)
- “Difference,” “less than,” “remain” → Subtraction (−)
- “Times,” “product of” → Multiplication (×)
- “Divided by,” “quotient of” → Division (÷)
- “Equals” → Equals sign (=)

Problem: “If one book costs $5, how much would 4 books cost?”

Translation: The word “costs” indicates a multiplication operation because we find the total cost of multiple items. Therefore, the equation is 4 × 5 = $20

Complex math word problems can often overwhelm students. Incorporating math strategies for problem solving, such as teaching them to break down the problem into smaller, more manageable parts, is a powerful approach to overcome this challenge. This means looking at the problem step by step rather than simultaneously trying to solve it. Breaking it down helps students focus on one aspect of the problem at a time, making finding the solution more straightforward.

Problem: “John has twice as many apples as Sarah. If Sarah has 5 apples, how many apples do they have together?”

Steps to Break Down the Problem:

Find out how many apples John has: Since John has twice as many apples as Sarah, and Sarah has 5, John has 5 × 2 = 10

Calculate the total number of apples: Add Sarah’s apples to John’s to find the total, 5 + 10 = 15

By splitting the problem into two parts, students can solve it without getting confused by all the details at once.

Explore these fun multiplication word problem games:

Diagrams and visual representations can be incredibly helpful for students, especially when dealing with spatial or quantity relationships in word problems. Encourage students to draw simple sketches or diagrams to represent the problem visually. This can include drawing bars for comparison, shapes for geometry problems, or even a simple distribution to better understand division or multiplication problems .

Problem: “A garden is 3 times as long as it is wide. If the width is 4 meters, how long is the garden?”

Visual Representation: Draw a rectangle and label the width as 4 meters. Then, sketch the length to represent it as three times the width visually, helping students see that the length is 4 × 3 = 12

Estimation is a valuable skill in solving math word problems, as it allows students to predict the answer’s ballpark figure before solving it precisely. Teaching students to use estimation can help them check their answers for reasonableness and avoid common mistakes.

Problem: “If a book costs $4.95 and you buy 3 books, approximately how much will you spend?”

Estimation Strategy: Round $4.95 to the nearest dollar ($5) and multiply by the number of books (3), so 5 × 3 = 15. Hence, the estimated total cost is about $15.

Estimation helps students understand whether their final answer is plausible, providing a quick way to check their work against a rough calculation.

Check out these fun estimation and prediction word problem worksheets that can be of great help:

When students encounter problems with unknown variables, it’s crucial to introduce them to logical reasoning. This strategy involves using the information in the problem to deduce the value of unknown variables logically. One of the most effective strategies for solving math word problems is working backward from the desired outcome. This means starting with the result and thinking about the steps leading to that result, which can be particularly useful in algebraic problems.

Problem: “A number added to three times itself equals 32. What is the number?”

Working Backward:

Let the unknown number be x.

The equation based on the problem is x + 3x = 32

Solve for x by simplifying the equation to 4x=32, then dividing by 4 to find x=8.

By working backward, students can more easily connect the dots between the unknown variable and the information provided.

Practicing problems of similar structure can help students recognize patterns and apply known strategies to new situations. Encourage them to leverage similar problems as templates, analyzing how a solved problem’s strategy can apply to a new one. Creating a personal “problem bank”—a collection of solved problems—can be a valuable reference tool, helping students see the commonalities between different problems and reinforcing the strategies that work.

Suppose students have solved a problem about dividing a set of items among a group of people. In that case, they can use that strategy when encountering a similar problem, even if it’s about dividing money or sharing work equally.

It’s essential for students to learn the habit of checking their answers within the context of the problem to ensure their solutions make sense. This step involves going back to the original problem statement after solving it to verify that the answer fits logically with the given information. Providing a checklist for this process can help students systematically review their answers.

Checklist for Reviewing Answers:

- Re-read the problem: Ensure the question was understood correctly.
- Compare with the original problem: Does the answer make sense given the scenario?
- Use estimation: Does the precise answer align with an earlier estimation?
- Substitute back: If applicable, plug the answer into the problem to see if it works.

Problem: “If you divide 24 apples among 4 children, how many apples does each child get?”

After solving, students should check that they understood the problem (dividing apples equally).

Their answer (6 apples per child) fits logically with the number of apples and children.

Their estimation aligns with the actual calculation.

Substituting back 4×6=24 confirms the answer is correct.

Teaching students to apply logical reasoning, leverage solved problems as templates, and check their answers in context equips them with a robust toolkit for tackling math word problems efficiently and effectively.

One of the most effective ways for students to improve their problem-solving skills is by reflecting on their errors, especially with math word problems. Using word problem worksheets is one of the most effective strategies for solving word problems, and practicing word problems as it fosters a more thoughtful and reflective approach to problem-solving

These worksheets can provide a variety of problems that challenge students in different ways, allowing them to encounter and work through common pitfalls in a controlled setting. After completing a worksheet, students can review their answers, identify any mistakes, and then reflect on them in their mistake journal. This practice reinforces mathematical concepts and improves their math problem solving strategies over time.

## 3 Additional Tips for Enhancing Word Problem-Solving Skills

Before we dive into the importance of reflecting on mistakes, here are a few impactful tips to enhance students’ word problem-solving skills further:

## 1. Utilize Online Word Problem Games

Incorporate online games that focus on math word problems into your teaching. These interactive platforms make learning fun and engaging, allowing students to practice in a dynamic environment. Games can offer instant feedback and adaptive challenges, catering to individual learning speeds and styles.

Here are some word problem games that you can use for free:

## 2. Practice Regularly with Diverse Problems

Consistent practice with a wide range of word problems helps students become familiar with different questions and mathematical concepts. This exposure is crucial for building confidence and proficiency.

Start Practicing Word Problems with these Printable Word Problem Worksheets:

## 3. Encourage Group Work

Solving word problems in groups allows students to share strategies and learn from each other. A collaborative approach is one of the best strategies for solving math word problems that can unveil multiple methods for tackling the same problem, enriching students’ problem-solving toolkit.

## Conclusion

Mastering math word problems is a journey of small steps. Encourage your students to practice regularly, stay curious, and learn from their mistakes. These strategies for solving math word problems are stepping stones to turning challenges into achievements. Keep it simple, and watch your students grow their confidence and skills, one problem at a time.

## Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can i help my students stay motivated when solving math word problems.

Encourage small victories and use engaging tools like online games to make practice fun and rewarding.

## What's the best way to teach beginners word problems?

Begin with simple problems that integrate everyday scenarios to make the connection between math and real-life clear and relatable.

## How often should students practice math word problems?

Regular, daily practice with various problems helps build confidence and problem-solving skills over time.

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## Teaching Problem Solving in Math

- Freebies , Math , Planning

Every year my students can be fantastic at math…until they start to see math with words. For some reason, once math gets translated into reading, even my best readers start to panic. There is just something about word problems, or problem-solving, that causes children to think they don’t know how to complete them.

Every year in math, I start off by teaching my students problem-solving skills and strategies. Every year they moan and groan that they know them. Every year – paragraph one above. It was a vicious cycle. I needed something new.

I put together a problem-solving unit that would focus a bit more on strategies and steps in hopes that that would create problem-solving stars.

## The Problem Solving Strategies

First, I wanted to make sure my students all learned the different strategies to solve problems, such as guess-and-check, using visuals (draw a picture, act it out, and modeling it), working backward, and organizational methods (tables, charts, and lists). In the past, I had used worksheet pages that would introduce one and provide the students with plenty of problems practicing that one strategy. I did like that because students could focus more on practicing the strategy itself, but I also wanted students to know when to use it, too, so I made sure they had both to practice.

I provided students with plenty of practice of the strategies, such as in this guess-and-check game.

There’s also this visuals strategy wheel practice.

I also provided them with paper dolls and a variety of clothing to create an organized list to determine just how many outfits their “friend” would have.

Then, as I said above, we practiced in a variety of ways to make sure we knew exactly when to use them. I really wanted to make sure they had this down!

Anyway, after I knew they had down the various strategies and when to use them, then we went into the actual problem-solving steps.

## The Problem Solving Steps

I wanted students to understand that when they see a story problem, it isn’t scary. Really, it’s just the equation written out in words in a real-life situation. Then, I provided them with the “keys to success.”

S tep 1 – Understand the Problem. To help students understand the problem, I provided them with sample problems, and together we did five important things:

- read the problem carefully
- restated the problem in our own words
- crossed out unimportant information
- circled any important information
- stated the goal or question to be solved

We did this over and over with example problems.

Once I felt the students had it down, we practiced it in a game of problem-solving relay. Students raced one another to see how quickly they could get down to the nitty-gritty of the word problems. We weren’t solving the problems – yet.

Then, we were on to Step 2 – Make a Plan . We talked about how this was where we were going to choose which strategy we were going to use. We also discussed how this was where we were going to figure out what operation to use. I taught the students Sheila Melton’s operation concept map.

We talked about how if you know the total and know if it is equal or not, that will determine what operation you are doing. So, we took an example problem, such as:

Sheldon wants to make a cupcake for each of his 28 classmates. He can make 7 cupcakes with one box of cupcake mix. How many boxes will he need to buy?

We started off by asking ourselves, “Do we know the total?” We know there are a total of 28 classmates. So, yes, we are separating. Then, we ask, “Is it equal?” Yes, he wants to make a cupcake for EACH of his classmates. So, we are dividing: 28 divided by 7 = 4. He will need to buy 4 boxes. (I actually went ahead and solved it here – which is the next step, too.)

Step 3 – Solving the problem . We talked about how solving the problem involves the following:

- taking our time
- working the problem out
- showing all our work
- estimating the answer
- using thinking strategies

We talked specifically about thinking strategies. Just like in reading, there are thinking strategies in math. I wanted students to be aware that sometimes when we are working on a problem, a particular strategy may not be working, and we may need to switch strategies. We also discussed that sometimes we may need to rethink the problem, to think of related content, or to even start over. We discussed these thinking strategies:

- switch strategies or try a different one
- rethink the problem
- think of related content
- decide if you need to make changes
- check your work
- but most important…don’t give up!

To make sure they were getting in practice utilizing these thinking strategies, I gave each group chart paper with a letter from a fellow “student” (not a real student), and they had to give advice on how to help them solve their problem using the thinking strategies above.

Finally, Step 4 – Check It. This is the step that students often miss. I wanted to emphasize just how important it is! I went over it with them, discussing that when they check their problems, they should always look for these things:

- compare your answer to your estimate
- check for reasonableness
- check your calculations
- add the units
- restate the question in the answer
- explain how you solved the problem

Then, I gave students practice cards. I provided them with example cards of “students” who had completed their assignments already, and I wanted them to be the teacher. They needed to check the work and make sure it was completed correctly. If it wasn’t, then they needed to tell what they missed and correct it.

To demonstrate their understanding of the entire unit, we completed an adorable lap book (my first time ever putting together one or even creating one – I was surprised how well it turned out, actually). It was a great way to put everything we discussed in there.

Once we were all done, students were officially Problem Solving S.T.A.R.S. I just reminded students frequently of this acronym.

Stop – Don’t rush with any solution; just take your time and look everything over.

Think – Take your time to think about the problem and solution.

Act – Act on a strategy and try it out.

Review – Look it over and see if you got all the parts.

Wow, you are a true trooper sticking it out in this lengthy post! To sum up the majority of what I have written here, I have some problem-solving bookmarks FREE to help you remember and to help your students!

You can grab these problem-solving bookmarks for FREE by clicking here .

You can do any of these ideas without having to purchase anything. However, if you are looking to save some time and energy, then they are all found in my Math Workshop Problem Solving Unit . The unit is for grade three, but it may work for other grade levels. The practice problems are all for the early third-grade level.

- freebie , Math Workshop , Problem Solving

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## Math Problem Solving Strategies

In these lessons, we will learn some math problem solving strategies for example, Verbal Model (or Logical Reasoning), Algebraic Model, Block Model (or Singapore Math), Guess & Check Model and Find a Pattern Model.

Related Pages Solving Word Problems Using Block Models Heuristic Approach to Problem-Solving Algebra Lessons

## Problem Solving Strategies

The strategies used in solving word problems:

- What do you know?
- What do you need to know?
- Draw a diagram/picture

Solution Strategies Label Variables Verbal Model or Logical Reasoning Algebraic Model - Translate Verbal Model to Algebraic Model Solve and Check.

## Solving Word Problems

Step 1: Identify (What is being asked?) Step 2: Strategize Step 3: Write the equation(s) Step 4: Answer the question Step 5: Check

## Problem Solving Strategy: Guess And Check

Using the guess and check problem solving strategy to help solve math word problems.

Example: Jamie spent $40 for an outfit. She paid for the items using $10, $5 and $1 bills. If she gave the clerk 10 bills in all, how many of each bill did she use?

## Problem Solving : Make A Table And Look For A Pattern

- Identify - What is the question?
- Plan - What strategy will I use to solve the problem?
- Solve - Carry out your plan.
- Verify - Does my answer make sense?

Example: Marcus ran a lemonade stand for 5 days. On the first day, he made $5. Every day after that he made $2 more than the previous day. How much money did Marcus made in all after 5 days?

## Find A Pattern Model (Intermediate)

In this lesson, we will look at some intermediate examples of Find a Pattern method of problem-solving strategy.

Example: The figure shows a series of rectangles where each rectangle is bounded by 10 dots. a) How many dots are required for 7 rectangles? b) If the figure has 73 dots, how many rectangles would there be?

Rectangles | Pattern | Total dots |

1 | 10 | 10 |

2 | 10 + 7 | 17 |

3 | 10 + 14 | 24 |

4 | 10 + 21 | 31 |

5 | 10 + 28 | 38 |

6 | 10 + 35 | 45 |

7 | 10 + 42 | 52 |

8 | 10 + 49 | 59 |

9 | 10 + 56 | 66 |

10 | 10 + 63 | 73 |

a) The number of dots required for 7 rectangles is 52.

b) If the figure has 73 dots, there would be 10 rectangles.

Example: Each triangle in the figure below has 3 dots. Study the pattern and find the number of dots for 7 layers of triangles.

Layers | Pattern | Total dots |

1 | 3 | 3 |

2 | 3 + 3 | 6 |

3 | 3 + 3 + 4 | 10 |

4 | 3 + 3 + 4 + 5 | 15 |

5 | 3 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 | 21 |

6 | 3 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 | 28 |

7 | 3 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 | 36 |

The number of dots for 7 layers of triangles is 36.

Example: The table below shows numbers placed into groups I, II, III, IV, V and VI. In which groups would the following numbers belong? a) 25 b) 46 c) 269

I | 1 | 7 | 13 | 19 | 25 |

II | 2 | 8 | 14 | 20 | 26 |

III | 3 | 9 | 15 | 21 | 27 |

IV | 4 | 10 | 16 | 22 | |

V | 5 | 11 | 17 | 23 | |

VI | 6 | 12 | 18 | 24 |

Solution: The pattern is: The remainder when the number is divided by 6 determines the group. a) 25 ÷ 6 = 4 remainder 1 (Group I) b) 46 ÷ 6 = 7 remainder 4 (Group IV) c) 269 ÷ 6 = 44 remainder 5 (Group V)

Example: The following figures were formed using matchsticks.

a) Based on the above series of figures, complete the table below.

Number of squares | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |

Number of triangles | 4 | 6 | 8 | 10 | ||||

Number of matchsticks | 12 | 19 | 26 | 33 |

b) How many triangles are there if the figure in the series has 9 squares?

c) How many matchsticks would be used in the figure in the series with 11 squares?

Number of squares | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |

Number of triangles | 4 | 6 | 8 | 10 | 12 | 14 | 16 | 18 |

Number of matchsticks | 12 | 19 | 26 | 33 | 40 | 47 | 54 | 61 |

b) The pattern is +2 for each additional square. 18 + 2 = 20 If the figure in the series has 9 squares, there would be 20 triangles.

c) The pattern is + 7 for each additional square 61 + (3 x 7) = 82 If the figure in the series has 11 squares, there would be 82 matchsticks.

Example: Seven ex-schoolmates had a gathering. Each one of them shook hands with all others once. How many handshakes were there?

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | |

A | |||||||

B | ● | ||||||

C | ● | ● | |||||

D | ● | ● | ● | ||||

E | ● | ● | ● | ● | |||

F | ● | ● | ● | ● | ● | ||

G | ● | ● | ● | ● | ● | ● | |

HS | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 |

Total = 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 21 handshakes.

The following video shows more examples of using problem solving strategies and models. Question 1: Approximate your average speed given some information Question 2: The table shows the number of seats in each of the first four rows in an auditorium. The remaining ten rows follow the same pattern. Find the number of seats in the last row. Question 3: You are hanging three pictures in the wall of your home that is 16 feet wide. The width of your pictures are 2, 3 and 4 feet. You want space between your pictures to be the same and the space to the left and right to be 6 inches more than between the pictures. How would you place the pictures?

## The following are some other examples of problem solving strategies.

Explore it/Act it/Try it (EAT) Method (Basic) Explore it/Act it/Try it (EAT) Method (Intermediate) Explore it/Act it/Try it (EAT) Method (Advanced)

Finding A Pattern (Basic) Finding A Pattern (Intermediate) Finding A Pattern (Advanced)

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Problem Solving

## Problem Solving Strategies

Think back to the first problem in this chapter, the ABC Problem . What did you do to solve it? Even if you did not figure it out completely by yourself, you probably worked towards a solution and figured out some things that did not work.

Unlike exercises, there is never a simple recipe for solving a problem. You can get better and better at solving problems, both by building up your background knowledge and by simply practicing. As you solve more problems (and learn how other people solved them), you learn strategies and techniques that can be useful. But no single strategy works every time.

## Pólya’s How to Solve It

George Pólya was a great champion in the field of teaching effective problem solving skills. He was born in Hungary in 1887, received his Ph.D. at the University of Budapest, and was a professor at Stanford University (among other universities). He wrote many mathematical papers along with three books, most famously, “How to Solve it.” Pólya died at the age 98 in 1985. [1]

In 1945, Pólya published the short book How to Solve It , which gave a four-step method for solving mathematical problems:

- First, you have to understand the problem.
- After understanding, then make a plan.
- Carry out the plan.
- Look back on your work. How could it be better?

This is all well and good, but how do you actually do these steps?!?! Steps 1. and 2. are particularly mysterious! How do you “make a plan?” That is where you need some tools in your toolbox, and some experience to draw upon.

Much has been written since 1945 to explain these steps in more detail, but the truth is that they are more art than science. This is where math becomes a creative endeavor (and where it becomes so much fun). We will articulate some useful problem solving strategies, but no such list will ever be complete. This is really just a start to help you on your way. The best way to become a skilled problem solver is to learn the background material well, and then to solve a lot of problems!

We have already seen one problem solving strategy, which we call “Wishful Thinking.” Do not be afraid to change the problem! Ask yourself “what if” questions:

- What if the picture was different?
- What if the numbers were simpler?
- What if I just made up some numbers?

You need to be sure to go back to the original problem at the end, but wishful thinking can be a powerful strategy for getting started.

This brings us to the most important problem solving strategy of all:

Problem Solving Strategy 2 (Try Something!). If you are really trying to solve a problem, the whole point is that you do not know what to do right out of the starting gate. You need to just try something! Put pencil to paper (or stylus to screen or chalk to board or whatever!) and try something. This is often an important step in understanding the problem; just mess around with it a bit to understand the situation and figure out what is going on.

And equally important: If what you tried first does not work, try something else! Play around with the problem until you have a feel for what is going on.

## Problem 2 (Payback)

Last week, Alex borrowed money from several of his friends. He finally got paid at work, so he brought cash to school to pay back his debts. First he saw Brianna, and he gave her 1/4 of the money he had brought to school. Then Alex saw Chris and gave him 1/3 of what he had left after paying Brianna. Finally, Alex saw David and gave him 1/2 of what he had remaining. Who got the most money from Alex?

## Think/Pair/Share

After you have worked on the problem on your own for a while, talk through your ideas with a partner (even if you have not solved it). What did you try? What did you figure out about the problem?

This problem lends itself to two particular strategies. Did you try either of these as you worked on the problem? If not, read about the strategy and then try it out before watching the solution.

Problem Solving Strategy 3 (Draw a Picture). Some problems are obviously about a geometric situation, and it is clear you want to draw a picture and mark down all of the given information before you try to solve it. But even for a problem that is not geometric, like this one, thinking visually can help! Can you represent something in the situation by a picture?

Draw a square to represent all of Alex’s money. Then shade 1/4 of the square — that’s what he gave away to Brianna. How can the picture help you finish the problem?

After you have worked on the problem yourself using this strategy (or if you are completely stuck), you can watch someone else’s solution.

Problem Solving Strategy 4 (Make Up Numbers). Part of what makes this problem difficult is that it is about money, but there are no numbers given. That means the numbers must not be important. So just make them up!

You can work forwards: Assume Alex had some specific amount of money when he showed up at school, say $100. Then figure out how much he gives to each person. Or you can work backwards: suppose he has some specific amount left at the end, like $10. Since he gave Chris half of what he had left, that means he had $20 before running into Chris. Now, work backwards and figure out how much each person got.

Watch the solution only after you tried this strategy for yourself.

If you use the “Make Up Numbers” strategy, it is really important to remember what the original problem was asking! You do not want to answer something like “Everyone got $10.” That is not true in the original problem; that is an artifact of the numbers you made up. So after you work everything out, be sure to re-read the problem and answer what was asked!

## Problem 3 (Squares on a Chess Board)

How many squares, of any possible size, are on a 8 × 8 chess board? (The answer is not 64… It’s a lot bigger!)

Remember Pólya’s first step is to understand the problem. If you are not sure what is being asked, or why the answer is not just 64, be sure to ask someone!

## Think / Pair / Share

After you have worked on the problem on your own for a while, talk through your ideas with a partner (even if you have not solved it). What did you try? What did you figure out about the problem, even if you have not solved it completely?

It is clear that you want to draw a picture for this problem, but even with the picture it can be hard to know if you have found the correct answer. The numbers get big, and it can be hard to keep track of your work. Your goal at the end is to be absolutely positive that you found the right answer. You should never ask the teacher, “Is this right?” Instead, you should declare, “Here’s my answer, and here is why I know it is correct!”

Problem Solving Strategy 5 (Try a Simpler Problem). Pólya suggested this strategy: “If you can’t solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you can solve: find it.” He also said: “If you cannot solve the proposed problem, try to solve first some related problem. Could you imagine a more accessible related problem?” In this case, an 8 × 8 chess board is pretty big. Can you solve the problem for smaller boards? Like 1 × 1? 2 × 2? 3 × 3?

Of course the ultimate goal is to solve the original problem. But working with smaller boards might give you some insight and help you devise your plan (that is Pólya’s step (2)).

Problem Solving Strategy 6 (Work Systematically). If you are working on simpler problems, it is useful to keep track of what you have figured out and what changes as the problem gets more complicated.

For example, in this problem you might keep track of how many 1 × 1 squares are on each board, how many 2 × 2 squares on are each board, how many 3 × 3 squares are on each board, and so on. You could keep track of the information in a table:

1 | 0 | 0 | 0 | ||

4 | 1 | 0 | 0 | ||

9 | 4 | 1 | 0 | ||

Problem Solving Strategy 7 (Use Manipulatives to Help You Investigate). Sometimes even drawing a picture may not be enough to help you investigate a problem. Having actual materials that you move around can sometimes help a lot!

For example, in this problem it can be difficult to keep track of which squares you have already counted. You might want to cut out 1 × 1 squares, 2 × 2 squares, 3 × 3 squares, and so on. You can actually move the smaller squares across the chess board in a systematic way, making sure that you count everything once and do not count anything twice.

Problem Solving Strategy 8 (Look for and Explain Patterns). Sometimes the numbers in a problem are so big, there is no way you will actually count everything up by hand. For example, if the problem in this section were about a 100 × 100 chess board, you would not want to go through counting all the squares by hand! It would be much more appealing to find a pattern in the smaller boards and then extend that pattern to solve the problem for a 100 × 100 chess board just with a calculation.

If you have not done so already, extend the table above all the way to an 8 × 8 chess board, filling in all the rows and columns. Use your table to find the total number of squares in an 8 × 8 chess board. Then:

- Describe all of the patterns you see in the table.
- Can you explain and justify any of the patterns you see? How can you be sure they will continue?
- What calculation would you do to find the total number of squares on a 100 × 100 chess board?

(We will come back to this question soon. So if you are not sure right now how to explain and justify the patterns you found, that is OK.)

## Problem 4 (Broken Clock)

This clock has been broken into three pieces. If you add the numbers in each piece, the sums are consecutive numbers. ( Consecutive numbers are whole numbers that appear one after the other, such as 1, 2, 3, 4 or 13, 14, 15.)

Can you break another clock into a different number of pieces so that the sums are consecutive numbers? Assume that each piece has at least two numbers and that no number is damaged (e.g. 12 isn’t split into two digits 1 and 2.)

Remember that your first step is to understand the problem. Work out what is going on here. What are the sums of the numbers on each piece? Are they consecutive?

After you have worked on the problem on your own for a while, talk through your ideas with a partner (even if you have not solved it). What did you try? What progress have you made?

Problem Solving Strategy 9 (Find the Math, Remove the Context). Sometimes the problem has a lot of details in it that are unimportant, or at least unimportant for getting started. The goal is to find the underlying math problem, then come back to the original question and see if you can solve it using the math.

In this case, worrying about the clock and exactly how the pieces break is less important than worrying about finding consecutive numbers that sum to the correct total. Ask yourself:

- What is the sum of all the numbers on the clock’s face?
- Can I find two consecutive numbers that give the correct sum? Or four consecutive numbers? Or some other amount?
- How do I know when I am done? When should I stop looking?

Of course, solving the question about consecutive numbers is not the same as solving the original problem. You have to go back and see if the clock can actually break apart so that each piece gives you one of those consecutive numbers. Maybe you can solve the math problem, but it does not translate into solving the clock problem.

Problem Solving Strategy 10 (Check Your Assumptions). When solving problems, it is easy to limit your thinking by adding extra assumptions that are not in the problem. Be sure you ask yourself: Am I constraining my thinking too much?

In the clock problem, because the first solution has the clock broken radially (all three pieces meet at the center, so it looks like slicing a pie), many people assume that is how the clock must break. But the problem does not require the clock to break radially. It might break into pieces like this:

Were you assuming the clock would break in a specific way? Try to solve the problem now, if you have not already.

- Image of Pólya by Thane Plambeck from Palo Alto, California (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons ↵

Mathematics for Elementary Teachers Copyright © 2018 by Michelle Manes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

## How to Solve Math Problems Faster: 15 Techniques to Show Students

Written by Marcus Guido

- Teaching Strategies

“Test time. No calculators.”

You’ll intimidate many students by saying this, but teaching techniques to solve math problems with ease and speed can make it less daunting.

This can also make math more rewarding . Instead of relying on calculators, students learn strategies that can improve their concentration and estimation skills while building number sense. And, while there are educators who oppose math “tricks” for valid reasons, proponents point to benefits such as increased confidence to handle difficult problems.

Here are 15 techniques to show students, helping them solve math problems faster:

## Addition and Subtraction

1. two-step addition.

Many students struggle when learning to add integers of three digits or higher together, but changing the process’s steps can make it easier.

The first step is to add what’s easy. The second step is to add the rest.

Let’s say students must find the sum of 393 and 89. They should quickly see that adding 7 onto 393 will equal 400 — an easier number to work with. To balance the equation, they can then subtract 7 from 89.

Broken down, the process is:

- (393 + 7) + (89 – 7)

With this fast technique, big numbers won’t look as scary now.

## 2. Two-Step Subtraction

There’s a similar method for subtraction.

Remove what’s easy. Then remove what’s left.

Suppose students must find the difference of 567 and 153. Most will feel that 500 is a simpler number than 567. So, they just have to take away 67 from the minuend — 567 — and the subtrahend — 153 — before solving the equation.

Here’s the process:

- (567 – 67) – (153 – 67)

Instead of two complex numbers, students will only have to tackle one.

## 3. Subtracting from 1,000

You can give students confidence to handle four-digit integers with this fast technique.

To subtract a number from 1,000, subtract that number’s first two digits from 9. Then, subtract the final digit from 10.

Let’s say students must solve 1,000 – 438. Here are the steps:

This also applies to 10,000, 100,000 and other integers that follow this pattern.

## Multiplication and Division

4. doubling and halving.

When students have to multiply two integers, they can speed up the process when one is an even number. They just need to halve the even number and double the other number.

Students can stop the process when they can no longer halve the even integer, or when the equation becomes manageable.

Using 33 x 48 as an example, here’s the process:

The only prerequisite is understanding the 2 times table.

## 5. Multiplying by Powers of 2

This tactic is a speedy variation of doubling and halving.

It simplifies multiplication if a number in the equation is a power of 2, meaning it works for 2, 4, 8, 16 and so on.

Here’s what to do: For each power of 2 that makes up that number, double the other number.

For example, 9 x 16 is the same thing as 9 x (2 x 2 x 2 x 2) or 9 x 24. Students can therefore double 9 four times to reach the answer:

Unlike doubling and halving, this technique demands an understanding of exponents along with a strong command of the 2 times table.

## 6. Multiplying by 9

For most students, multiplying by 9 — or 99, 999 and any number that follows this pattern — is difficult compared with multiplying by a power of 10.

But there’s an easy tactic to solve this issue, and it has two parts.

First, students round up the 9 to 10. Second, after solving the new equation, they subtract the number they just multiplied by 10 from the answer.

For example, 67 x 9 will lead to the same answer as 67 x 10 – 67. Following the order of operations will give a result of 603. Similarly, 67 x 99 is the same as 67 x 100 – 67.

Despite more steps, altering the equation this way is usually faster.

## 7. Multiplying by 11

There’s an easier way for multiplying two-digit integers by 11.

Let’s say students must find the product of 11 x 34.

The idea is to put a space between the digits, making it 3_4. Then, add the two digits together and put the sum in the space.

The answer is 374.

What happens if the sum is two digits? Students would put the second digit in the space and add 1 to the digit to the left of the space. For example:

It’s multiplication without having to multiply.

## 8. Multiplying Even Numbers by 5

This technique only requires basic division skills.

There are two steps, and 5 x 6 serves as an example. First, divide the number being multiplied by 5 — which is 6 — in half. Second, add 0 to the right of number.

The result is 30, which is the correct answer.

It’s an ideal, easy technique for students mastering the 5 times table.

## 9. Multiplying Odd Numbers by 5

This is another time-saving tactic that works well when teaching students the 5 times table.

This one has three steps, which 5 x 7 exemplifies.

First, subtract 1 from the number being multiplied by 5, making it an even number. Second, cut that number in half — from 6 to 3 in this instance. Third, add 5 to the right of the number.

The answer is 35.

Who needs a calculator?

## 10. Squaring a Two-Digit Number that Ends with 1

Squaring a high two-digit number can be tedious, but there’s a shortcut if 1 is the second digit.

There are four steps to this shortcut, which 812 exemplifies:

- Subtract 1 from the integer: 81 – 1 = 80
- Square the integer, which is now an easier number: 80 x 80 = 6,400
- Add the integer with the resulting square twice: 6,400 + 80 + 80 = 6,560
- Add 1: 6,560 + 1 = 6,561

This work-around eliminates the difficulty surrounding the second digit, allowing students to work with multiples of 10.

## 11. Squaring a Two-Digit Numbers that Ends with 5

Squaring numbers ending in 5 is easier, as there are only two parts of the process.

First, students will always make 25 the product’s last digits.

Second, to determine the product’s first digits, students must multiply the number’s first digit — 9, for example — by the integer that’s one higher — 10, in this case.

So, students would solve 952 by designating 25 as the last two digits. They would then multiply 9 x 10 to receive 90. Putting these numbers together, the result is 9,025.

Just like that, a hard problem becomes easy multiplication for many students.

## 12. Calculating Percentages

Cross-multiplication is an important skill to develop, but there’s an easier way to calculate percentages.

For example, if students want to know what 65% of 175 is, they can multiply the numbers together and move the decimal place two digits to the left.

The result is 113.75, which is indeed the correct answer.

This shortcut is a useful timesaver on tests and quizzes.

## 13. Balancing Averages

To determine the average among a set of numbers, students can balance them instead of using a complex formula.

Suppose a student wants to volunteer for an average of 10 hours a week over a period of four weeks. In the first three weeks, the student worked for 10, 12 and 14 hours.

To determine the number of hours required in the fourth week, the student must add how much he or she surpassed or missed the target average in the other weeks:

- 14 hours – 10 hours = 4 hours
- 12 – 10 = 2
- 10 – 10 = 0
- 4 hours + 2 hours + 0 hours = 6 hours

To learn the number of hours for the final week, the student must subtract the sum from the target average:

- 10 hours – 6 hours = 4 hours

With practice, this method may not even require pencil and paper. That’s how easy it is.

## Word Problems

14. identifying buzzwords.

Students who struggle to translate word problems into equations will benefit from learning how to spot buzzwords — phrases that indicate specific actions.

This isn’t a trick. It’s a tactic.

Teach students to look for these buzzwords, and what skill they align with in most contexts:

Be sure to include buzzwords that typically appear in their textbooks (or other classroom math books ), as well as ones you use on tests and assignments.

As a result, they should have an easier time processing word problems .

## 15. Creating Sub-Questions

For complex word problems, show students how to dissect the question by answering three specific sub-questions.

Each student should ask him or herself:

- What am I looking for? — Students should read the question over and over, looking for buzzwords and identifying important details.
- What information do I need? — Students should determine which facts, figures and variables they need to solve the question. For example, if they determine the question is rooted in subtraction, they need the minuend and subtrahend.
- What information do I have? — Students should be able to create the core equation using the information in the word problem, after determining which details are important.

These sub-questions help students avoid overload.

Instead of writing and analyzing each detail of the question, they’ll be able to identify key information. If you identify students who are struggling with these, you can use peer learning as needed.

For more fresh approaches to teaching math in your classroom, consider treating your students to a range of fun math activities .

## Final Thoughts About these Ways to Solve Math Problems Faster

Showing these 15 techniques to students can give them the confidence to tackle tough questions .

They’re also mental math exercises, helping them build skills related to focus, logic and critical thinking.

A rewarding class equals an engaging class . That’s an easy equation to remember.

> Create or log into your teacher account on Prodigy — a free, adaptive math game that adjusts content to accommodate player trouble spots and learning speeds. Aligned to US and Canadian curricula, it’s loved by more than 500,000 teachers and 15 million students.

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Step 1: Understanding the problem. We are given in the problem that there are 25 chickens and cows. All together there are 76 feet. Chickens have 2 feet and cows have 4 feet. We are trying to determine how many cows and how many chickens Mr. Jones has on his farm. Step 2: Devise a plan.

Problem solving can change the way students see maths - and how they see themselves as maths learners. But, it's tough to help all students get the most out of a task. To help, here are 5 Strategies for Problem Solving Success. These are 5 valuable lessons I've learned from working with teachers across the globe. You can use these strategies ...

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Here are some strategies to solve a math problem. These strategies begin with Math Practice Standard 1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. They all start with read the problem carefully to figure out what it asks. Read each sentence carefully to make sure you comprehend it. Decide what the problem includes that you need to ...

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The following video shows more examples of using problem solving strategies and models. Question 2: The table shows the number of seats in each of the first four rows in an auditorium. The remaining ten rows follow the same pattern. Find the number of seats in the last row. Question 3: You are hanging three pictures in the wall of your home ...

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Instead of relying on calculators, students learn strategies that can improve their concentration and estimation skills while building number sense. And, while there are educators who oppose math "tricks" for valid reasons, proponents point to benefits such as increased confidence to handle difficult problems.