Strategies in Special Ed for Math Word Problems

The SQRQCQ can help children with math learning disabilities

Schoolgirl (12-13) using tablet pc, assisted by teacher

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Word problems challenge students with learning disabilities in basic math and applied math skills, but academic strategies can serve such children well in addition to students with basic reading disabilities and reading comprehension difficulties. One strategy, known as the SQRQCQ, can be used in special education programs and Individualized Education Programs. It can be changed to meet individual children's needs.

The strategy guides students to find important elements in problems and determine how they should be used to solve them. It includes built-in self-questioning to encourage students to find and correct their own mistakes.

Survey the Math Problem

Read the word problem to get an idea of its general nature. Talk with your student about the problem and discuss which parts are most important. Determine if there are any "red herrings" in the problem that serve no purpose in solving it. Have the student offer guesses about what the creator of the problem wants him to do.

Reflect on the reading to determine what you think the problem is asking you to do. Is the question asking you to estimate, calculate area, multiply or perform another operation? Talk about it with your student.

Read the Math Problem

Read the question again. This time, focus on the specific details of the problem. Which parts of the problem relate to each other? Consider which form of measurement your answer should be in; should the answer be in inches, miles, liters, time units or some other form? Discuss this with your student.

Ask Questions About the Operations Involved

Reflect again. This time, determine the specific math operations the problem is asking you to perform, and list them on paper in the order they are to be performed.

Perform each operation in the order you listed it. Check off each step as you finish it.

Question Yourself About the Steps Taken

Review each step you took. Determine if your answer seems reasonable. If possible, check your answer against the book's answers or have a teacher look at your work to determine if you are on the right track. Check your answers at each step of the operation. Were they correct? If not, make those corrections.

Wrapping Up

Scan through the text of the word problems you will be solving to identify any words you do not recognize. List them and determine their meanings before solving the problems. Write brief definitions of the terms of your reference during problem-solving.

For students with basic math learning disabilities, consider allowing the use of a calculator as they learn how to work with word problems. This will allow them to focus on problem-solving skills without their calculation disabilities getting in the way.

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