Math Topics - Word problems

Posts: 79
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 7:36 pm

Math Topics - Word problems

Unread post by Fly2Peace »

KSMomys wrote:I'm posting here since I know that the majority of us use Singapore Math. My 9yo daughter is in the 2A book. She is struggling with the word problems and I'm not sure how to help. She just can't seem to figure them out. I've told her the clue words I look for in a problem, but they don't always work, at least not with every problem in the Singapore book.

Anyone have any ideas about how I can help her?
I understand EXACTLY what you mean about the word clues! We try to use manipulatives to "think" it through when my dd is not sure. Sometimes then it just clicks. Sometimes it is the math blocks, or M&M's (a family favorite), or whatever is handy. It is just to help visualize and think through the words. But, setting "rules" about word clues and which way a problem will go with Singapore just won't work. :) Rather like real life in that respect.
Fly2Peace (versus flying to pieces)
Posts: 442
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 9:37 am

Unread post by Lucy »

I agree with Fly2Peace on trying to have her think out what is being said and to build it with manipulatives. My daughter and son who are in the program are older and in 4B so at this point I usually tell them to draw out what they read. It really helps them to think about what is being said and to get a picture of what is they are trying to figure out. Also you should know that in a practice or review( I am not sure which now) they acutally put in problems that are different than what they have done before to see if they can think through how to get to the answer. Not all of them are this way but maybe one or two will be. Sometimes my kids think it out wrongly and we talk about why that will not work and then come up with another solution. The important thing is they are learning to test and think and not just do rote problems.

Hang in there! If you get really stuck on a problem give the office a call. I have had to do that several times and they are so very helpful.

wife to Lee and mom to Twila 18 (girl) and Noel 16(boy). Happy MFW user since 2002.
Julie in MN
Posts: 2910
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:44 pm
Location: Minnesota


Unread post by Julie in MN »

I don't have a 2A book around here, but are there any examples of Singapore bar diagrams yet? I know that starts somewhere in 2A or 2B.

Singapore word problems are best solved using their bar diagrams. And learning to do this very early will help make it second-nature when the problems get more complicated.

In a basic bar diagram, one bar may be the sum, and the other bar include the 2 addends (if it is an addition problem). Then you evaluate which pieces of information are given in the word problem and which piece is missing. As they get more complicated, you may do a second step to come up with the answer to the question.

Singapore will purposely include different types of problems in a set, which use different skills. So teaching the child a certain pattern probably will not work, just as Fly2Peace has said.

And Lucy mentioned that *some* problems may be beyond what has been taught. It helps to get your kids to expect a challenging problem now & again in Singapore. They can use it to see how much more they will be able to do in the future!

Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002+)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs
Posts: 37
Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2006 4:34 pm

Word Problems - Singapore techniques

Unread post by bethben »

My son doesn't get the word problems right away either. Let's say the problem is "there are 25 red chairs and 35 blue chairs. How many more blue chairs are there than red chairs". So, he guesses addition? Subtraction?

So what I started doing was putting it into his world with smaller numbers just for him to get what he is doing. "you have 5 red legos and Timothy has 8 blue legos. How many more blue legos than red legos are there?" He would get it right away and then understand if it should be subtraction or addition.

He's gotten a bit better this way. Good luck!

Unread post by cbollin »

Oh to be able to sit with you or talk on the phone. My 2nd dd is just slow in many things. I do still walk and talk her through the problems together. And model how to do it. But something in your post concerns me a bit.

First: Are you using some kind of math manipulative (blocks, legos, straws, whatever)? If not, you need to still use tangible objects when teaching math to a young child --- whether or not you use Singapore Math. We do not teach our young children abstract ideas without a concrete way to help. Mental math is almost a disservice to Singapore Math because it can lead people to think that they never teach with manipulative or have to teach only with abstract methods (symbols and equations). So – use blocks and let your child touch them and move them around.

Second: When you say she doesn’t know how to solve the problems without you first pointing things out --- are you talking in terms of she doesn’t know which symbols to use to write an equation (no worries yet) or that she really doesn’t know how to approach the thinking process of the problem? (I’d be worried) Does she understand what the problem is asking when it says things like “more than” “how many more”? What about when it carries over to real life (setting the table for a meal --- we have 2 plates, how many more do we need to be ready for the whole family?)

Writing the symbols for the problem is not the first thing to work on with any word problem. I’d work more on having her build the problem, or talk about it. The writing can be continued to be modeled by teacher with not big deal at this point in my experience. Both need to be done.

Third: For problems like “how many more is blank than unblank” --- this is confusing to a young student (in some cases). Why? Because for a long time the student has heard that “more” almost always means to add something. But this time, more is only part of the problem. They need to read the entire problem and not look just for a key word such as more. In this case the key words is really a phrase: how many more than. We are comparing the "difference" between the two. The "difference" is the answer to a problem involving subtraction. But you don't have to tell your student that at this point. But, it might help to rephrase the question of "how many more does Rahmat have than Samy" to say "well, what is the difference between their collections?" hmmmmm.

You have to make sure that you child understands the words that are being spoken. That has been the biggest struggle for my 2nd dd, who has delays in language and some auditory processing issues. Never realized until recently that all those years of doing speech/language therapy would carry over to math class. anyway....

I agree with Beth that sometimes it is very helpful to use smaller numbers to teach and to drill the process.

Down to the nitty gritty of the how to's

Let’s take a problem like textbook 2A, p 27, #12.
Rahmat has 48 stickers. Samy has 32 stickers. How many more stickers does Rahmat have than Samy? (remember you could say it that way and then help your child know that you're trying to find the difference between the amounts and not "the total if you put them together in a big pile and counted them all together.)

Play with an example that uses smaller numbers. I would have my daughter practice with Rahmat has 8 stickers. Samy has 2. How many more does Rahmat have than Samy?
First, I would ask my dd --- who has more? (rahmat)
Then we would either draw something on the board or grab some math blocks.
I would have my child draw a line from each sticker in Samy’s sticker collection to a “friend” in Rahmat’s sticker collection. (Now you see why I dropped the 48 and the 32 ---we’d be drawing all day.)

Then I’d ask, “How many more does Rahmat have?” My dd would either see that it is 6 more or she would just count it at that point depending on how tired she is.

Then *I* would say “yes it is 6 more than Samy because” and I would write this on the board while saying it out loud 8-2 = (and wait for child to answer) Six.

Now, what if Rahmat had 48 stickers and Samy has 2? (well, my daughter would build this with blocks and then realize that she could have just done 48 take away 2 is the same as 46)

Now what if Rahmat has 48 and Samy has 32? ---- again, we would use a math blocks. I would have my dd build 48 and build 32 and then put the 32 over top the 48 and see what is left over.

Each time I would write out the equation. My dd is not struggling with the computation of such a problem so if all I did was write the equation, she’d get the right answer.
Ok – that’s a long explanation and may not even be the problem that your child is working on. But I’m hoping it gives some insight into an approach to teaching math that focuses less on just knowing which symbol to use when. Sometimes you have to re-phrase the question so they hear and see the whole question instead of just one word in the question.

Let me know if that makes any sense.