Math Problem Solving and Young Children

math problem solving is important for young kids
Kids need to learn to be good problem solvers

Young children are naturally curious and therefore are great at problem solving.  They can also be great math problem solvers with some simple guidance from adults. There are some common strategies that young children can learn to help them solve problems.

The BIG 5 Problem Solving Strategies for Young Kids

  1. Guess and Check– This is one of the simplest strategies to solve problems. It allows students to respond and then check to see if their guess was right. Although easy, kids sometimes think it’s a game and guess any answer.  Since guesses can be done without much thinking, you can support their guessing by asking them if it is the best guess.  Encourage them to think about their guesses and ask do you think that’s the best guess?
  2. Act it Out– Have kids pretend they are actors and perform the information in the problem. Ex. John went to the store and bought 3 apples. Mary also bought 3 apples.  How many apples did they have all together? In this example John pretends to walk to a store to buy 3 apples. Mary does the same and then they put their apples together to solve the problem.
  3. Use Manipulatives– Using items to represent numbers can help kids make a problem concrete. Manipulatives can be anything that can be easily moved. (counters, dice, money, beans, chips, fingers, money, paper clips) Be creative!
  4. Draw– Drawing pictures gives students the opportunity to create their own manipulatives. This is a perfect strategy to use when there are no manipulatives nearby.  Drawing helps to keep kids focused on the problem and it also creates a visual representation of the problem.  This can be used to show their thinking.
  5. Think It Through– Encourage kids to be thinkers. Teach them to think (remember) things they already know.  Prompt them with questions and hints on ways to solve the The following questions can be used to guide their mathematical thinking: What did you do to get the answer?What did you do to get the answer?
  • Can you show me how you figured that out?
  • What happened in the problem?
  • Why do you think that is the correct answer?
  • Where do you think you should start?
  • Do you think that will work?
  • What did you do to get the answer?

Enjoy the Math Journey!

Children’s ability to solve problems will improve with experience and practice.  Parents can engage their children in math by pointing out math concepts that surround them every day. Guide them to see the patterns, shapes and numbers in their world.  Engage them in cooking, card playing, puzzles and different types of board games. Enjoy your math journey together.

Other posts related to this topic

Numeracy in Early Childhood

“Math Walks”: Time to “Walk the Talk”

100 Chart for Math

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