Strategies for Teaching Problem Solving Skills

Teaching kids specific strategies will help kids be better at problem solving.

Teaching kids who struggle in math is not easy.  But there are some procedures and strategies that have been shown to be helpful when learning mathematical concepts.  The following 5 strategies should be included in each math lesson.

  1. Teach each step in the sequence.
  2. Ensure that steps are taught through demonstration.
  3. Allow sufficient time for guided practice.
  4. Provide independent practice with guidance.
  5. Create a visual display and post in the classroom or student notebooks to assist students.

4 Problem Solving Strategies

Check our 4 problem solving strategies that use mnemonics to help remember them: RIDE, FAST DRAW, TINS, and STAR. I like to consider the mnemonic math strategies to be the “training wheels” of problem solving. They get your students up and solving problems, helping to build confidence until they are ready to solve the problems without mnemonics.

RIDE (Mercer, Mercer, & Pullen, 2011) RIDE is a strategy used to assist students with solving word problems. Students who have trouble with abstract reasoning, attention, memory, and/or visual spatial skills may benefit from the strategy.

R – Remember the problem correctly.

I – Identify the relevant information.

D – Determine the operations and unit for expressing the answer.

E – Enter the correct numbers, calculate, and check the answer.

FAST DRAW (Mercer & Miller, 1992) Like RIDE, FAST DRAW is another strategy used to solve word problems.

F— Find what you are solving for.

A— Ask yourself, “What are the parts of the problem?”

S— Set up the numbers.

T— Tie down the sign.

D — Discover the sign.

R — Read the problem.

A — Answer or draw and check.

W— Write the answer

TINS Strategy (Owen, 2003) The TINS strategy allows students to use different steps to analyze and solve word problems: (1) Think, (2) Information Circle, (3) Number Sentence, (4) Solution Sentence.

T—Thought Think about what you need to do to solve this problem and circle the key words.

I— Information Circle and write the information needed to solve this problem; draw a picture; cross out unneeded information.

N— Number Sentence Write a number sentence to represent the problem.

S – Solution Sentence Write a solution sentence that explains your answer.

STAR – The STAR strategy prompts students to apply a 4 -step problem-solving method: (1) Search, (2) Translate, (3) Answer, and (4) Review.

Search for important information

  • Read it aloud.
  • Highlight key words.
  • Cross out information that is not important

Translate the word problem into a number sentence.

  • Arrange counters/objects to understand the problem.
  • Draw the problem.
  • Explain the problem in your own words.

Answer the problem.

  • Consider the math operations to use.
  • Think about the steps to follow and their proper order. 

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?