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Middle school math now is based on problem-solving and needs good reading skills on part of the students. Students have difficulty staying focused. If a problem requires more than one step to solve, they frequently lose track of what they are ultimately supposed to find out. Therefore, students need to develop work habits and organizational skills along with problem-solving strategies. Following are a few techniques that have proved helpful:
- Work is carried out on a separate piece of paper rather than filling in charts or blanks in a workbook in order to teach students how to label and line up their own work. Graph paper is used for computation if students need help lining up numbers or decimals during computation.
- It is helpful to discuss the problem. What is it asking? What information are we given? Then the student must use keywords, phrases, or symbols to notate the original problem.
- The student must then write an equation for solving the problem, lining it up below his notes about the problem. It is important to teach students to line up their work in columns or rows. They can use scratch paper for computation, but must then put the results in the proper place where work is being recorded.
- All work must be labeled properly, not just final solutions–dollar signs, percent symbols, as well as words. This is an important habit to be developed. Without the labels reminding the student what he is looking for and what he has just found, it is very easy to end up with a number and not remember what it represents.
- Students should be able to identify alternative ways to find a solution before choosing one to use in solving the problem.
- If a student forgets how to do something, try to jog his memory by asking questions that lead him through the reasoning process. At the middle school level, students must apply all sorts of memorized skills in order to find solutions. When memory fails them, reasoning can save the day.
- After working on a concept, a student should be taught how that concept will apply to several real-life situations. All students need to see the practical applications of math, but kids with difficulty concentrating find it easier to stay focused on tasks they find meaningful.
By developing the habit of methodically listing and labeling steps in an orderly manner, students will be better prepared to solve problems in higher math that require them to show the logical process from problem to solution. It also contributes to such practical math as maintaining a checkbook and a budget. Students who are having difficulty staying focused should develop a strategy that helps them remember what they are supposed to find out. This can be done by continuously practicing multistep questions and underlining the keywords which help in the solution of the problem.
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