Word Problem Tips
Word problems? Help.
Amanda: I get asked about word problem practice A LOT. The point of Math-U-See is learning word problems and understanding how to apply that to real-life situations.
I found a great series of books called Verbal Math Lessons [by Charan Langton and Michael Levin] that dovetails well with different levels of our curriculum. I recommend these to anyone who is struggling with word problems.
Linda: When we get to a word problem, we need to change our expectations. One of the expectations that either the student or parent might have is to read through the problem once, and think they’re going to get the answer. That might happen, but generally not. Expect that you’re going to need to read the word problem more than once. Draw a picture. Act it out. Put friends’ names in the problem. Whatever you need to do to make it concrete.
Patti: Read it through first. Decide what you’re looking for. Don’t just look for the numbers, and guess what you’re supposed to do. The front of the manual is also about word problems.
What do you wish customers knew about Math-U-See?
Mary: A lot of times the response we get from customers is that Math-U-See must not be very thorough, because it’s too easy for my child. But math doesn’t have to be difficult to be deep.
For some parents, the way they learned math was really hard. And now they see their student just eating it up, and they wonder if something’s wrong. If my student isn’t struggling, then it must be too easy. Well, no, it’s not too easy.
Patti: In the back of their instruction manual is a list of where each topic is located within the entire curriculum, not just that level. And you have to use all the parts: You need the instruction manual. You need the DVD. Not just one or the other; it takes everything. It takes the manipulatives.
If you could put your arm around each homeschool parent’s shoulders for a moment, and say, “Here’s what you need to know…”
Sindy: It all comes together. You’re afraid you’re going to miss a concept, or something will tragically ruin your child forever if you don’t cover it. But they’ll learn what they need as they’re going through it. Explore the individual student’s passions. Build a lifelong learner. [When did you compromise your original plans for class?] This one time we were watching Zoom, and they got so excited about creating a structure with cardboard boxes and taking a picture to send it off. I was like, great! Geometry. Art. Okay!
There was one time when we went to the grocery store, and there were games where you could win a goldfish. We got a goldfish. They were all about goldfish that week. We learned all about goldfish. [How long did the goldfish live?] Too long. We had to get new containers and the whole nine yards.
Mary: Sometimes, when you get a phone call, they need some help with math, but what they’re really looking for is encouragement. “I’m starting to question whether I’m doing a good job homeschooling my child.” One, they need someone to listen to them. And two, I just encourage them.
Even though I didn’t homeschool my children, I know it’s a difficult thing to do. And I do know that when your child is not succeeding, that reflects on you so strongly that you feel like a failure also, that you’re failing that child. So you need someone to be there to say, “It’s not you, it just takes time and you’re doing a good job. You’ll get through this. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
What do you tell parents of students with special needs and learning differences?
Linda: We do a lot of work with special needs students. We have all kinds of helps for all kinds of students! And that might be one of the more exciting moments I get to be a part of: to see how well Math-U-See and Spelling You See work for a student with dyslexia, or someone who’s on the Autism Spectrum, or anyone with something that’s wonderfully quirky about the brain. I so love hearing of the great success they are having with our curriculum—success that they haven’t found with anything else they have tried.
I think it’s amazing to hear of all the learning differences that students have. There are some pretty cool-wired brains out there. And we are thrilled to let them know that we have just the curriculum they can succeed with!