How Maths Word Problems Help Students Level Up Their Critical Thinking Skills

Posted by Robin Philbrick on September 26th, 2022

A lot of students get anxious dealing with maths word problems. When they encounter these exercises in tests, homework and practice worksheets, even the normally assured students have to put on their thinking caps and apply themselves to solve the problem.       

The reason for this is that word problems are typically multilayered. These problems require students to use skills like reading and comprehension and simultaneously require them to leverage various maths concepts they have studied.

While a few learners may tackle word problems in the same way they would resolve a riddle, others may read through the problem and face a block, being unable to apply easy maths concepts that they already know.

Training your child to gain mastery over maths word problems will lead to several benefits that serve as the foundation for tackling advanced maths concepts in higher classes.

The Value of Maths Word Problems

Word problems are not just a type of question found in maths exercises to bring variation to test questions.  Tackling maths word problems allows learners:

Building logical reasoning and critical thinking skills

Learners can easily come up with the answers to MCQ maths questions with a little logic and using the elimination method.

Nevertheless, word problems call for more than just glancing at the problem and choosing an answer at once based on similar equations the learner has come across before.

Word problems require the learner to slow down and think, and in contrast to ready-made equations it involves descriptions, words and numbers that are all tied together in a web that has to be unravelled.

To solve a word problem, learners need to be able to read it, pick out the relevant details, create the equation and solve it. After this, they would need to figure out if the answer is logical in the context provided in the question.

Applying maths to real-world scenarios

Children frequently complain that maths seems to have no connection to their everyday life and as problems become more complex they feel like it’s useless studying these maths when they’ll never need them.

Basically, children don’t typically see their parents using maths to calculate things in real life situations.

Maths word problems help them to understand this more clearly because they allow learners to learn how maths concepts can be applied to scenarios in real life.

For instance, learners may encounter problems where they need to measure items for a hypothetical building project or one that asks them to arrange for sufficient snacks for an event.

Actual scenarios like this make students realise not only the reason for learning maths concepts but also teach them how to tackle real life problems by depending on the maths concepts that they have already understood.

Learning to apply multiple maths concepts at the same time

Often learners are expected to use multiple concepts in a single maths word problem.

In these cases learners typically have to apply their algebraic skills, number sense and geometry concepts to arrive at the final answer to a problem. To add to this, students would also need to be well-versed in reading comprehension.

With sufficient practice learners familiar with word problems will learn how to break down a problem into various pertinent parts. After doing so they will be able to solve each part using the relevant maths concept and then come to a single answer through a step-by-step method.

Helps assess a learner’s understanding

Tackling word problems can prove challenging for learners, particularly for those who are already unable to grasp basic maths operations.

As there is no fixed pattern for solving word problems, it stands to reason that those who find maths a challenge are likely to feel unconfident trying to solve these problems by themselves.

Learners who have not sufficiently understood a maths concept taught in class will not know how to get cracking on word problems.

This is why when learners become proficient in solving maths problems, teachers and parents are able to evaluate whether they have arrived at the appropriate understanding level. These learners have shown the capacity to tackle complex problems in real life situations.

As a good evaluation tool, word problems allow parents and teachers to assess what the child has learnt and what they have failed to grasp.

Even students who generally fare well in maths tests find it a challenge to solve word problems from time to time. Through maths word problems parents and teachers can help children relate to maths concepts better and also evaluate their learning level.   

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Robin Philbrick

About the Author

Robin Philbrick
Joined: September 26th, 2022
Articles Posted: 1