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12th June 2013 - Help learners to see what calculation is needed with the Problem Mapper

We often underestimate how much more difficult it is for a learner (particularly one who gets a little anxious when doing maths) to see what calculation is needed when the numbers are ‘hidden’ between words.

These learners may be fine when asked to add 6 and 9 but go to pieces when asked to work out:
‘If Joe has 6 mice and his brother has 9, how many mice do they have all together?’

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that they find this more challenging, because word problems represent a considerably greater understanding about mathematical processes.

For starters, there is no obvious sign like + or – telling you what to do. Then there are lots of words that need reading and if you’re not a confident or fluent reader, that’s a real barrier, especially when it involves special mathematical language.

But don’t despair – help is at hand with the amazing Problem Mapper!

Here’s what to do:

  1. Divide a sheet of A3 into quarters. (You can laminate this sheet and use it again.)

  2. Label the quarters Read It, Do It, Draw It, Write It.

  3. First, copy the actual word problem into the Read It box.

  4. Next, put objects (counters or blocks) in the Do It box to represent the problem.

  5. Then draw a diagram of the problem in the Draw It box.

  6. Finally write the calculation in the Write It box.

Learners get to see four different ways of looking at the same thing and it starts to make sense!

Try it! Soon enough, your learners will be confident with “the different branches of Arithmetic - Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision." (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)

Kath John, Catch Up® Approved Trainer

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