What math student doesn’t struggle with or outright hate word problems in pre-algebra, algebra, or geometry? The ones that don’t know how to apply math to real-life applications, that’s who. Landscaping or construction scenarios torture them, as do the shadow-pole-building examples that require drawing a picture. That’s if they don’t already despise math itself.
When working with students on word problems, a more accurate picture of their educational difficulties is revealed.
They begin by reading the problem aloud. Words are mispronounced. Maybe they are pressured regarding reading in the presence of an instructor. They continue. Their use of phonics to sound out the words is non-existent. They sound as if they are learning to read. Others stumble on the so-called “big” words. Even a pre-algebra student should be far beyond that point. Usually, these words are recognized in common speech. Plenty of people use words they cannot spell.
The student continues with the problem. We walk through how to approach it. While that happens, there is no ignoring that there is a reading issue as well. Math is about numbers until a word problem is presented.
Is the student interested in tackling the underlying problem? Can he or she accept an offer to help without taking it as a criticism?
Care enough to help them over the hurdle.