Why Are High School Math Word Problems Important?

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Math word problems are important for high school students because they help develop a conceptual understanding of the processes involved in arriving at solutions and enhance students' abilities to communicate mathematically. Word problems also may help students become more interested in math by showing how concepts they have been studying abstractly can be put to use in real-world situations.

The more problematic the tasks presented by such word problems are, the more students can build on concepts and rules that they already know. Some researchers have also developed a set of criteria that problems should meet in order to effectively teach the application of concepts already known. Problems should contain useful mathematics and require high-level thinking to solve. They should allow for multiple solution strategies that can be applied and defended both verbally and mathematically. Problems also should promote student discussion about other mathematical concepts.

Adding to the importance of using word problems as a teaching method for high school students is the fact that in most standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, the majority of math questions are word problems. This highlights the importance of catching not only math deficiencies before students take these tests but also reading deficiencies.