Children must learn to model word problems. While there are other ways to solve word problems (that is, by using shortcuts) children cannot understand those other ways without the ability to make models.

Of course it is obvious that children are not born with the ability to make models. In this example it is clear that Trixie does not know how to model the problem - she simply doesn't understand the question and so she has no way to solve it. One way or another Trixie must learn what to do - the question is, "How is she to do that?"

I believe that modeling should be explicitly taught. The 12 types of word problems should be systematically introduced and children should be provided with clear direction on how the problems are to be solved.

Here are some videos that illustrate the teaching of model making.

Here is some general advice on teaching children to model word problems.

  • You can start with children as young as 2. Easy Addition and Easy Subtraction are the easiest models to learn and it makes sense to start there.

  • One word problem a day, or even one every few days is more than enough. Try to work them into ordinary play situations. Try to make them funny. You don't want problem solving to turn into boring work.