6 comments
  1. It's kind of unfortunate we call them "word problems" because the words aren't the point, are they? The point of a word problem is to present some isolated data and ask students to figure out what to do with that data to answer a question. We could do that with real-life models, or videos, or comic strips.

    There's actually a great TED talk that walks through why word problems suck and very practical steps to un-suck them.

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    1. Thanks for the link. I think that's my thought. Let's make them not suck so bad.

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  2. I never liked word problems as a student and they haven't gotten any better over the years. The textbooks have spent so much time trying to make problems politically correct (with names) and continue to use obscure situations. All they are doing is causing more confusion among students. I have watched as third and fourth graders stumble over the names and are unable to even get to the problem. Once they insert names of classmates, they can then tackle the math. That is if the math makes sense in their lives. If not, change it. If we can relate the problem to the student's lives and environments they will have a better chance of getting to the math rather than stumbling over the words.

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    1. The situations themselves are so absurd that they become laughable.

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  3. I always hated word problems as a student. Now, I get them, but I have no idea what changed in my head that enables me to solve them without much trouble. I teach high school algebra, and my students hate word problems. If it's a multiple choice question, they will either randomly pick an answer, or multiply all of the numbers in the word problem and pick the answer that is the closest. If it's not multiple choice, a lot of them won't even attempt the word problem. It's unfortunate, because most of the math in life is word problems.

    I've been trying to do some of Dan Meyer's problems, which a few of the students get into, but most of them have such a block built against word problems. They are convinced that word problems don't make any sense and shouldn't make any sense. And, given the problems they see on tests and in the textbook, I'm afraid that they are right.

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    1. What do you think is the biggest barrier to problem-solving and word problems?

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