Working on Math Problems to Improve a Child’s Critical Thinking Skills

A well-formulated word problem gives elementary school students a measurable context to understand mathematical concepts.

We need to realize that it’s essential for students to access the content of the problem, and for that, it must be culturally appropriate. Providing students with proper context is vital for them to understand abstract mathematical concepts.

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Here’s how educators can formulate math problems that promote critical thinking abilities among children.


Make Them Relatable for Students

This is a no-brainer, yet many math problems discuss topics or excessive quantities of objects that students cannot relate to.

Therefore, as educators, we need to ensure that students relate to the narrative when we formulate word problems. For that, we need to know the backgrounds and interests of students.

Elementary students’ love slime and Pokémon. So, when you make a word problem, you may want to use them to develop a student’s interest in it by helping them visualize the problem.

As word problems focus on abstract concepts, students require something relatable to cling to, helping them take the problem to the finish line.

Make Them Solvable

Word problems don’t have to be complicated. Complex problems can frustrate the students instead of challenging them

Make Them Open-Ended

Open-ended word problems enable students to think beyond what’s stated. Here’s a basic word problem:

“Mason has five cars. He buys four more. How many cars does he have altogether?”

While this problem is simple, it won’t make the students think critically. By rephrasing this problem, we can allow students to think in broader terms and try various entry points to tackle this problem. We can change the problem in the following way:

“Mason has five cars. His dad gifted him a few more. Now he has eight cars. How many did his dad gift him?”

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