Solving Word Problems Part 1: Work it out In Guided Math Groups

Posted on March 16, 2011. Filed under: Common Math Errors, During the Guided Math Lesson, Math is a Language | Tags: , , , , , , |

Word Problems are one of the biggest challenges for students in math. In 1977, Australian educator Anne Newman discussed five steps that students need to work through in order to solve a word problem successfully–

(1) reading the problem / READING

(2) comprehending what was read /COMPREHENSION

(3) transforming the words into a mathematical strategy/TRANSFORMATION

 (4) applying a mathematical procedure/PROCESS SKILLS

(5) writing the answer/ ENCODING

Her research showed that over 50% of errors that children make occur in the first three steps– before they even begin to solve the problem!


She suggested a 5 step protocol for word problem solving error analysis.  She would ask the following questions:

1.       Please read the question to me. If you don’t know a word, leave it out.

2.       Tell me what the question is asking you to do.

3.       Tell me how you are going to find the answer.

4.       Show me what to do to get the answer. “Talk aloud” as you do it, so that I can understand how you are thinking.

5.       Now, write down your answer to the question.

The five questions link to the 5 processes (noted alongside them).  Whereever the student has a break down, this is where the teaching point begins.  Now, if asked to rework the problem and the student gets it right and can self correct, Newman labels this as a careless error.  All other errors are teaching points.  Try this out on your students and let me know what happens.


Reference 1 (Be sure to watch the video) 

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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