Many students find word problem solving difficult right through high school. One approach to helping them is to analyse what strategies successful problem solvers use. Although they may have spontaneously developed these, we can teach other students these strategies in a more explicit way.
Research has shown that those children who are generally good at word problem solving have the ability to represent the problem in a mental model. This mental model contains all the relevant information in the problem, with the inter-relationships and connections between elements properly represented. On the other hand, poor problem solvers base their solution on numbers and keywords in the problem, which they directly translate into some arithmetical operation.
Kamala Mukunda works with the Centre for Learning, Bangalore, and she can be reached at [email protected].