Parents, we understand you completely – primary school math can be very challenging. There are moments when you’re torn between tearing your hair out and signing yourself up for extra tuition yourself, all while trying to hide from your child the fact that you have no idea what you’re reading on his Math homework.
We sat through one of Marshall Cavendish Education’s Model Drawing Workshops and got some tips on how to deal specifically with word problems.
Less is not more – don’t look out for cue words
This is something that is very common in younger children; they tend to look out for cue words when they read word problems.
Children have the tendency to add when they see the word “more” in any part of the word problem, and subtract when they see the word “less”. Which can be a problem when you are faced with a question like this one:
Qn: Jess had 12 beads and Ken had 4. How many more beads had Jess than Ken?
What children might do: 12 + 4 = 16
Because the word “more” is present.
Correct answer: 12 – 4 = 8
It might look very straightforward to you because you understand the word problem as a whole. Jess clearly has more than Ken, and the question seeks to address by how much more exactly.
But children might have issues synthesising the word problem the way we do and that’s when it gets difficult to convince them that “more” here does not mean you automatically add whatever numbers exist in the word problem.
How do you deal with this, then?
Drawing out the word problem might help the little one understand the situation better. A little visual representation might just be what he needs to understand that the question is asking for the difference between the number of beads Jess had and the number of beads Ken had.
Label to minimise careless mistakes
Note that in the model drawing above, labels are placed so that what each block represents is clear. Being able to correctly label not only shows that your child understands the problem, but also helps to minimise careless mistakes. Your child might argue with you and insist that he can remember what each part represents, but that’s just mischief and laziness talking.
It is also important to put the value back into the model drawing after each step to “update” the drawing with new information. This makes it easier for your child to follow the progression of the problem-solving process.
Be flexible. Models don’t have to be in blocks
We’ve seen very little of models that are not drawn in horizontal blocks but who’s to say that one cannot draw models in vertical blocks, or in other shapes? The important thing is to ensure that your child uses a visual representation that he understands. You can take some time to explore other forms of representation with him.
Method marks and answer marks: what are they?
Method marks are given to students who have managed to display an understanding of the question through the method used and reward sequential thinking. Answer marks, on the other hand, reward the correct answer. This distinction places emphasis on the importance of the process of obtaining the answer, as students can still be rewarded with some method marks even if the final answer is not correct.
Take time to develop a strong foundation
Your child might take some time to actually grasp concepts, and trying to quicken the process by teaching him short cuts or telling him “It’s just like that lah, don’t ask so many questions” is not going to be helpful at all! There is much to be learnt from the mistakes your child make, and understanding his thought processes is the key to helping him improve as you can rectify his erroneous thoughts.
The “My teacher say must do this way” argument
This can be tricky as you don’t want to disrespect your child’s teachers, but you also believe that this problem sum can be tackled in another way. Speak to the teacher involved and voice your concerns. More often than not, the teacher would appreciate your initiative, and will work with you towards a solution.
If the teacher is adamant about using a certain method, there’s no reason why you can’t still explore other methods with your child at home. In fact, it might be a good idea to explore together, and ask your child which method he likes best and why. This can foster creative thinking.
For more information on Marshall Cavendish Education’s workshops click here!