*[This article begins a series rescued from my old blog. Moving has been a long process, but I’m finally unpacking the last cardboard box! To read the entire series, click here: elementary problem solving series.]*

Most young students solve story problems by the *flash of insight* method: When they read the problem, they know almost instinctively how to solve it. This is fine for problems like:

There are 7 children. 2 of them are girls. How many boys are there?

As problems get more difficult, however, that flash of insight becomes less reliable, so we find our students staring blankly at their paper or out the window. They complain, “I don’t know what to do. It’s too hard!”

We need to give our students a tool that will help them when insight fails.