Who's Fault? _ Is it his fault that he lacks confidence with word problems? Not entirely. Our actions, as educators, seem to imply a belief that solving word problems should come more naturally than simpler operations like arithmetic and algebra. Many parents and teachers feel justified in encouraging (i.e. forcing) a child to work hundreds or thousands of math worksheets, drill multiplication tables, long division... but few encourage solving hundreds of story problems. One suspects that the relative ease of creating and checking ordinary math worksheets keeps the focus of math education on simple, atomic operations at the expense of more holistic story problems.
The Effect _ Most of even beginning algebra depends on being able to do two things__one, doing multiplication quickly and accurately in your head, two, knowing how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions. You might remember a concept in algebra called "factoring." Factoring means breaking up into parts that are multiplied together to give you the whole. You can factor numbers. For instance, 6 factors into 2 and 3_θx3 =6. In elementary algebra we learn to factor expressions such as x^2ƲxƲ. This particular expression is easily factorable into (xư)^2. If this doesn't make any sense to you, don't worry about it. Just trust me, if you don't know your multiplication tables, you can't factor. If you can't factor, you won't do well at all in algebra, geometry, or trigonometry.