The Problem With Word Problems

Mar 2, 2018

“Why are these problems so long and wordy?”

I hear this or similar questions from my students every time we work on a lengthy word problem. Maybe you have heard it from your own children. Well, I have several great answers for them, even the student who is not considering science as a field of study.

First of all, becoming proficient at solving word problems will help develop a student’s reading comprehension. It will enable them to recognize terminology that may be familiar but used in a different context. Or they may discover words whose definitions they do not know, but in the context of the information in the word problem, they may be able to learn the meaning to those new words or phrases.

 Word ProblemsAnother skill that is developed by solving word problems is the ability to choose pertinent information in a lengthy problem among the “filler” information that adds context to the story but is not necessary in solving the problem. At first, a student might get confused by the additional information, but as more word problems are practiced and solved, the crucial information will become evident.

Analytical skills are useful in every school subject as well as in our daily lives. Becoming an excellent word problem solver will develop analytical skills that can carry over to other subjects and daily tasks. Being able to analyze and solve a word problem will give us the ability to solve the everyday problems that we face with confidence, knowing that we have the skills and practice to do it well. In short, it can help make us better thinkers.

So here is my answer to my students: “When you think about a word problem, don’t dread it; make it engaging and fun! Tackle it with the knowledge that it will only make you stronger and add rigor to your education.”

Useful Blog Post: 

5 Advantages and Disadvantages of Problem-Based Learning [+ Activity Design Steps]

About the Author

Kerrie Childress has a love for science that she desires to pass along to every student she teaches. She graduated in 1996 with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Bob Jones University and in 2001 with a M.A. in Health and Exercise Science from Furman University.  She has over 15 years of teaching experience in 3 states and several different platforms. Kerrie is also currently teaching on-line for a local community college as well as teaching science classes at Excelsior Classes.