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.
If you have read my article "Helping Your Child With Basic Arithmetic? Stay Away From Worksheets" then you know that I am not a fan of traditional worksheets. After writing that article, I found another credible teacher who has written many ezine articles expounding on the benefits of worksheets. I decided some clarification of position is in order. The primary problem with most math worksheets is that the problems are already written out and the child need only write the answers. For learning and practicing the basic skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, it is much more beneficial for the child to write out the entire fact and say the entire fact out loud. A child will learn a multiplication fact much faster if they are writing out 6 x 8 = 48 at the same time they are saying "six times eight is forty_eight" than if they just see 6 x 8 = ___ and only have to supply the 48. Rather than using worksheets, a better method is to use individual size white boards and have the child writing entire facts many times. Having a child writing 9 x 7 = 7 x 9 = 63 while saying "nine times seven is the same as seven times nine and is equal to sixty_three" is many times more successful than a worksheet with 9 x 7 = ___ and the student just thinks the answer once and then writes that answer on the duplicate problems.