Why Word Problems?

Wow! My Word Problems from Literature Kickstarter is just barreling along. I love seeing how many people are interested in a playful approach to teaching math.

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But you might wonder: Why do I care so much about word problems?

In many textbooks, word problems are an afterthought tacked on to the end of a math lesson.

For me, it’s just the opposite. Word problems are the key part of a lesson, because that’s where children come face-to-face with the meanings of math concepts.

The Key to Learning Math

If we want our children to learn real math, we need to offer them plenty of problems to solve. A child may work through several pages of number calculations by rote, following memorized steps, but a good problem demands more thought.

A story problem puts flesh on the abstract bones of arithmetic. Word problems encourage children to ponder what it means for one thing to be bigger than another, or smaller, or faster, or slower, or made up of several parts.

Word Problems from Literature will feed your child’s mathematical imagination with story problems inspired by classic books, from 2nd-grade stories based on Mr. Popper’s Penguins to prealgebra stumpers inspired by The Lord of the Rings.

And when you finish my puzzles, I’ll show you how to create your own word problems from literature, using your children’s favorite story worlds.

The Trouble with Word Problems

Most young children solve math problems by the flash-of-insight method: They hear the problem, and they know by instinct how to solve it.

This is fine for simple problems like “Four kittens played with a yarn ball. Two more kittens came to join the fun. Then how many kittens were playing with the yarn ball?”

When problems grow more difficult, however, that flash of insight becomes less reliable, so we find our children fidgeting with their paper or staring out the window. They complain, “I don’t know what to do. It’s too hard.”

Too often, the frustrated child concludes, “I’m just not good at math.”

But the truth is that nobody is good at math, if you define “good at math” to mean they can see the answer instantly. Here’s a more useful definition: You’re good at math if you have problem-solving tools and know how to use them.

And that is something everyone can learn.

Word Problems from Literature and the Word Problems Student Workbook will show you how. Order your copies today!

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