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Video: Why Do We Ask Word Problems in Math?

Like many people, mathematician Brandon Smith doesn't like word problems. He really doesn't like them. The problem with word problems, he says, is that they're frequently clunky, confusing and cumbersome -- and that's before even getting to the mathematics.  Too often, word problems conflate problem solving with reading comprehension, making it difficult to tell whether a student is struggling with the math concepts or the words themselves.

Yet, in many cases (most notably the new career- and college-ready assessments), words are the primary way to deliver complex problems. And so we're stuck with word problems, for better or worse.

In this video, Smith asks you to think deeply about why we ask word problems in the first place, and offers actionable tips for how you can create better word problems for your students -- the kind that minimize reading comprehension and maximize problem solving.


Now that you've learned a few tips to improve word problems, download Smith's simple three-step checklist to help you craft better word problems.

Checklist for writing better word problems
Download the Checklist for Writing Good Word Problems

Also, to learn more about the shift in the kind of word problems presented on new state math assessments, see our free ebook,What Is Math Rigor?  Learn a new definition of rigor and find strategies to connect classroom learning and the rigorous expectations of state standards. 

 Download your free ebook on math rigor

Brandon Smith

About the Author

Brandon Smith is the Lead Mathematician at MIND Research Institute. He is the resident expert on mathematics in the ST Math software and MathMINDs programming. A collegiate academic, he couldn't pass up the chance to work at MIND to help make math fun, engaging, and tantalizing.


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