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.
Today we all know that benefits of math are considerable. Math is not a subject one learns by reading the problems and solutions. American children have very little practice with multi_step problems, and very few opportunities to think their way in to and through problems that don't look like 'all the others'. With a packed curriculum and the increased emphasis on testing, our children are taught tons of procedures _ but procedures disconnected from when to use them, and why. Sustained thinking _ the key ingredient to math success _ is painfully absent in too many math classes.