- Math-based word problems, when crafted well, can help students find the context to what they’re learning, elementary special education teacher Braxton Hall writes for Edutopia. Following a few simple steps, educators can build word problems with a connection to a student’s life and make math more relevant, he said.
- To start, educators should create math sets that have a connection to something that holds students’ interests, such as Pokémon cards, and potentially write the names of students into word problems, as well.
- The problems must also be solvable, as anything too complicated may thwart the goal of engaging students. Word problems that are open-ended, however — rather than too simple and straightforward — can also spark critical thinking skills in students, helping them consider multiple pathways to solve a problem.
Tying mathematics to real-world scenarios can help boost student engagement in the subject. Educators may want to tap into pupils’ interests as well, from popular subjects to personal passions.
Teachers could look to neighborhood groups and organizations like dance troupes or local nature areas and other places where students might go after school. They can even consider partnering with groups to craft projects around math concepts. For example, students who are engaged in sports programs could be assigned math word problems that build off data sets from basketball, swimming, running or even curling games or tournaments — including numbers that they’ve collected.
When it comes to children, pizza is always a favorite meal, so one project could ask the class to calculate the total cost of a pizza, even comparing the price of a local restaurant's pie to one from a national chain. In addition, teachers could assign ratio and proportional math problems based on the amount of sugar in a bottle of soda vs. a healthier drink.