How to Teach Word Problems
Word problems are one of the most complex skills to teach in elementary math. At the same time, they are also the most practical skill. It is so important that our students understand how to solve word problems, yet many teachers struggle with helping their students succeed with this skill. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be hard. Keep reading to learn how to teach word problems like a boss.
The problem with many traditional math curriculums is that they only cater to one type of learner. As a teacher, you know very well that there is way more than one type of learner out there! In fact, there are seven main learning styles that students have. The best way to teach anything – especially word problems – to your students is to incorporate activities that appeal to ALL learning styles.
This can sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Many activities actually meet the needs of several different types of learners, and they can be incredibly simple. But first, it’s important to understand the needs of each type of learner so you can begin brainstorming word problems strategies for each type. Let’s take a look at each learning style and how to teach word problems to each one. TLDR: There’s a free resource at the end of this post that you WON’T want to miss out on.
Teaching Word Problems to Each Type of Learner
Visual learners use visuals, such as pictures, diagrams, or maps, to help them process information. They learn best when they have something to look at instead of being forced to just listen. When planning to teach word problems to visual learners, think about how you can make the lesson more visual. Can you bring in any pictures? Diagrams? Maybe a YouTube video? These things will all help your visual learners gain a better understanding for how to solve.
Verbal learners are also called linguistic learners because of their love for language. They love reading, writing, and speaking. Verbal learners tend to be verbal processors, and also love vocabulary. When teaching word problems to verbal learners, focus on the language used in the story problem. Allow them opportunities to express their thinking through conversation or writing. Teaching math vocabulary may also help your verbal learners understand word problems better.
Aural learners love sound, music, and rhythm. Audio cues such as sound effects or songs help them recall information. Using chants or jingles to help teach math concepts can do wonders for the aural learner. For word problems, think about ways to incorporate music or sound effects into teaching the process for solving. Voice inflection and tone can be pretty impactful, as well!
Physical learners are hands-on and active. They learn best through their sense of touch. Tactile activities or anything that gets them out of their seats are incredibly beneficial to your physical learners. How can you get your physical learners out of their seats when you teach word problems? When possible, incorporate active activities or provide manipulatives. Don’t forget – writing and drawing are also physical activities!
Math tends to come pretty naturally to logical learners (also conveniently called mathematical learners). They do well with systems and procedures, and enjoy finding patterns and making connections. It is important to them to understand the why behind what they are learning. To support your logical learners, make sure they have a clear understanding of how things work, and offer lots of different strategies to choose from to solve.
Social learners enjoy working with others. They tend to be external processors and like to talk things through with others. To best support your social learners, provide opportunities for collaboration with their peers when working on word problems. This can be as simple as having them turn and talk to their neighbor after solving a problem.
Solitary learners prefer working alone. They work best when they have a personal investment in the material. To support your solitary learners, be sure to include lots of independent practice. Allow lots of processing time, as they are internal processors who need time to think. Lastly, be sure to create motivation for your solitary learners by creating interest in the problems.
Free Word Problem Differentiation E-Book
Word problems can be hard, but they don’t have to be. Teaching students how to be successful with word problems starts with making sure your instruction meets the unique needs of each of your students. Understanding the different learning styles is the first step.
Want more activity ideas that work for each learning style? Download my free e-book on word problem differentiation. The 30 page e-book includes detailed descriptions of each learning style, word problem activities to support each learning style, a sample lesson plan, and more. To download, simply enter your email address below.