Scaffolding Math Word Problems

By Pete Greene

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New York State assessment data for grades 3-8 mathematics shows that an average of 46.5% of students that attempted constructed response or extended response items received zero (0%) credit. So the question is: Are students finding an entry point into complex math word problems or are they getting freaked out before they even attempt to solve? These questions are very complex, and oftentimes, students do get discouraged before making an attempt to solve such problems. With that said, it can be argued that the more students are exposed to these problems, at an appropriate entry level by way of instructional scaffolding, the more confidence they will have to attempt problems, make sense of them, and arrive at a more reasonable answer.