Solving problems in context, also known as word problems or practical problems, is a challenge for students, especially students with disabilities. This is often because solving word problems requires students to read and understand the problem, identify relevant information, choose an appropriate strategy, solve the problem correctly, and ensure that the answer makes sense (Iris Center, 2019). Explicitly teaching students cognitive and metacognitive strategies to solve problems in context provides students with the skills to recognize a task or problem, make a plan to address it, and carry out the plan (McLeskey, Maheady, Brownwell, & Lewis, 2019).
METACOGNITIVE STRATEGY: UPS-Check
UPS-Check is a four-step process to assist students with understanding and solving problems in context. Metacognitive strategies, such as UPS-Check, help students learn to plan how to solve problems, monitor to see if their approach is working, and modify if their strategy is not working (Iris Center, 2019).
|UNDERSTAND||Read the problem
What is the problem asking?
Identify key information
|PLAN||Choose a strategy to solve the problem|
|SOLVE||Solve the problem
|CHECK||Check my work
Does the answer make sense?
COGNITIVE STRATEGY: Schema-Based Instruction (SBI)
Schema-based instruction (SBI) teaches students how to identify word problem types based on a given problem’s underlying structure, or schema (Iris Center, 2019). When working on problems in context, students are taught to identify the problem schema and to represent the features of the story problem using schematic diagrams (Jitendra, 2007). The details of the story problem are mapped out in the diagram to ensure that irrelevant information is not included (Jitendra, 2007).
Schema-Based Instruction Problem Types
Bringing It All Together
If students are to be more successful, teachers should pair instruction on cognitive strategies with that of metacognitive strategies—strategies that enable students to become aware of how they think when solving mathematics problems (Iris Center, 2019). Let’s look at an example of solving a word problem using the cognitive strategy of SBI and the metacognitive strategy of UPS-Check.
Problem: A squirrel made a pile of nuts. It ran away and found 55 more nuts for its nest. Now there are 125 nuts. How many nuts were in the pile in the beginning?
Looking for more math resources for cognitive and metacognitive strategies?
Check out Solving Math Problems: Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities Using Schema-Based Instruction from our T-TAC ODU Library
Complete the High-Quality Mathematics Instruction: What Teachers Should Know Module on the Iris Center website
Iris Center. (2019). High quality mathematics instruction: What teachers should know. Retrieved from https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/math/#content
Jitendra, A. K. (2007). Solving math word problems: Teaching stuudents with learning disabilities using schema-based instruction. Austin: PRO-ED.
McLeskey, J., Maheady, L., Brownwell, M. T., & Lewis, T. J. (2019). High leverage practices for inclusive classrooms. New York: Routledge.