development of teaching methods in word problems in Mathematics
THE PROBLEM AND ITS SCOPE
While government and industry keep praising mathematics for its usefulness and
importance in life, it can be hard for children to see how functions, equations, or
geometric shapes can help them in everyday life. Word problems are consistently used as
practice exercises and illustrations throughout math curriculum. Despite this prevalence,
many students have difficulty solving word problems, based on the complex and varied
nature of these exercises. Together with its difficulty, this may be one of the reasons why
mathematics is largely unpopular among many students.
According to Legner (2013), learning mathematics includes solving various types
of problems, from those which require performing arithmetical operations to those which
require problem solving skills. Children are faced with mathematical word problems
consisting of both words and numbers as early as the preschool age, and also later in
school mathematics. Word problems have traditionally been difficult for many people. In
many instances, individuals who seem to lack adequate computational skills in solving
word problems demonstrate these skills when problems are presented in numerical form.
Problem solving has been and will be a necessary skill not only in Mathematics
but in everyday living. Part and parcel of problem solving is to translate word problems
into mathematical equations. Pupils in grade school have difficulties in analyzing and
interpreting word problems especially when they are required to perform an indicated
operation in verbal forms (Dela Cruz and Lapinid, 2014).
Learning to communicate verbally and to write about Mathematics is important.
This can be emphasized in the classroom by addressing correct use of vocabulary and
grammar, encouraging the use of both written and spoken mathematical language,
assisting with the translation of English phrases or sentences to mathematical language
and, in general, encouraging students to discuss Mathematics (Oldfield, 1996 as cited by
Oviedo (2005) stated that mathematical language has its own vocabulary, syntax,
semantic and discourse properties. In terms of vocabulary, mathematics includes words
that are specific to the domain (e.g., coefficient, denominator, etc.), and day to day words
that take on a specific meaning within the context of mathematics (e.g., equal, rational,
table, column, etc.). Competence in this specific vocabulary is crucial to pupils'
mathematical understanding especially as they progress to higher grades. It means that
they have to learn that the terms are related to the context in which they occur.
In order to assist at-risk students in problem solving, educators were cognizant of
the differences in a student‘s mathematical abilities and the difficulties they had with
problem solving. This included the gifted child who had special needs for more
challenging work. Diezman, Thornton, and Watters (2003) stated,
To provide worthwhile problem-solving experiences for all
students in the classroom, we teachers should pay particular attention to
the needs of exceptional students, those with learning difficulties as well
as those who are gifted in Mathematics‖ (p. 169) as cited by Lopez (2008).
Success in solving word problems is reliant on a student‘s knowledge of language
and structure, ability to interpret vocabulary in mathematical terms, and actual
mathematic knowledge and ability. The difficulty level of each of these factors can varygreatly between problems, and ability levels can vary greatly between students. Based on
this complex interaction, traditional teaching strategies for solving math word problems
(e.g. key words, step-based problem solving models) are rarely universally helpful
Indeed, problem solving is a difficult task as it involves a lot of steps. Pupils have
to hurdle the challenges in going from one step to another, although the steps may not
necessarily have to be taken in sequential manner. Some of the processes in solving word
problems involve reading comprehension and how pupils make a plan. This is where the
study focused on because it includes the ability of the pupils in solving word problems in
Mathematics. It sought to identify the difficulties encountered in translating worded
problems into Mathematical symbols. It also aims to inspire prospective educators to take
interest in teaching Mathematics and to encourage learners in terms of learning
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