Methods - Modeling

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 a Hard Subtraction 1 problem - she simply doesn't understand the question and so she has no way to solve the problem. 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. Can there be any doubt that I did the right thing in the examples above by telling Trixie and Rose exactly what to do?

Here is some general advice on teaching your child to model word problems. The videos on the Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division tabs illustrate these principles and more.

  • You can start when your child is 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.