Students with learning disabilities often believe that math is something you either do automatically or don't do at all. But that's not true. Help your students understand that they have a choice of problem-solving strategies they can use, and if one doesn't work, they can try another.
Here are four common strategies students can get solution math problem.
Visualizing an abstract problem often makes it easier to solve. Students can draw a picture or simply draw strokes on a piece of elaboration paper.
Encourage visualization by modeling it on the board and providing graphic organizers that give students space to draw before writing down the final number.
Show students how to make an educated guess and then use that answer in the original problem. If it doesn't work, they can adjust their original guess up or down accordingly.
To find patterns, show students how to extract and list all the relevant facts in a problem so they can be easily compared. When they find a pattern, they will be able to find the missing information.
Working backwards is useful when students are tasked with finding an unknown number in a problem or math sentence. For example, if the problem is 8 + x = 12, students can find x by:
Starting with 12
Subtract the 8 from the 12
Leaving with 4
Checking to see if 4 works when used in place of x
Strategies to work out
Now that students understand the problem and have formulated a strategy, it's time to put it into practice. But if they just go ahead and do it, they might make it harder on themselves. Show them how to work through a problem effectively by:
Documenting working out
Demonstrate how to write down each step to solving a math problem, and provide students with a worksheet as they solve a problem. This allows students to keep track of their thinking and catch mistakes before coming up with a final solution.
Check along the way
Checking work as you go is another important self-monitoring strategy for math learners. Practice this with thinking aloud questions such as:
Does the last step look right?
Does this step connect to the previous one?
Did I do any "smaller" sums within the larger problem that need to be checked?
Strategies for checking the solution
Students often make the mistake of thinking that speed is everything in math - so they rush to write down an answer and move on without checking.
But checking is important, too. It allows them to recognize difficulties when they arise, and it enables them to tackle more complex problems that require multiple reviews before arriving at a final answer.
Here are some reviewing strategies you can encourage:
Check with a partner
Comparing answers with a peer student is a more reflective process than just getting a checkmark from the teacher. If students have two different answers, encourage them to talk about how they arrived at their answers and compare their work methods. They will figure out exactly where they went wrong and what they got right.
Reread the problem with your solution
In most cases, students will be able to tell if their answer is correct or not by putting it back into the original assignment. If it doesn't work or just looks "wrong," it's time to go back and correct it.
Show students how to backtrack their work to find the exact point where they made a mistake. Emphasize that they can't do this if they didn't write everything down from the beginning - so a single answer without elaboration isn't as impressive as they might think!
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