Word Problems for the Early Learner

Word problems are an issue for many math students.  This is especially true in the early grades when students are also still learning to read and to comprehend text.  It is crucial that students receive explicit instruction on how to apply a problem solving process and to classify word problems into types before attempting to find the solution.  Without explicit instruction in these areas, solving a word problem feels like a random walk on an endless journey to many students.  Explicit instruction should include methods that increase students’ ability to self-regulate through the use of self-instruction, self-questioning, and self-checking.  General Solution Instruction (also known as General Strategy Instruction or GSI) was first introduced by Polya in 1945.  Schema-based instruction helps struggling students classify problems into specific types to help them understand the mathematical structure within the word problem (Jitendra, 2007).  Together, these two researched practices increase achievement in solving word problems for all students.