Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems

Math word problems can be tricky and often challenging to solve. Employing the SQRQCQ method can make solving math word problems easier and less intimidating. The SQRQCQ method is particularly useful for children with learning disabilities and can be used effectively in special education programs. SQRQCQ is an abbreviation for Survey, Question, Read, Question, Compute, and Question.

Step 1 - SURVEY the Math Problem

The first step to solving a math word problem is to read the problem it in its entirety to understand what you are being asked to solve. After you read it, you can decide the most relevant aspects of the problem that need to be solved and what aspects are not relevant to solving the problem. The idea here is to get a general understanding.


Once you have an idea of what you're attempting to solve, you need to determine what formulas, steps, or equations should be utilized in order to find the correct answer. It is impossible to find an answer if you can't determine what needs to be solved. Basically, what are the questions being asked by the problem?

Step 3 - REREAD

Now that you've determined what needs to be solved, reread the problem and pay close attention to specific details. Determine which aspects of the problem are interrelated. Identify all relevant facts and information needed to solve the problem. As you do, write them down.


Now that you're familiar with specific details and how different facts and information within the problem are interrelated, determine what formulas or equations must be used to set up and solve the problem. Be sure to write down what steps or operations you will use for easy reference.

Step 5 - COMPUTE

Use the formulas and/or equations identified in the previous step to complete the calculations. Be sure to follow the steps you outlined while setting up an equation or using a formula. As you complete each step, check it off your list.


Once you've completed the calculations, review the final answer and make sure it is correct and accurate. If it does not appear logical, review the steps you took to find the answer and look for calculation or set-up errors. Recalculate the numbers or make other changes until you get an answer that makes sense.

How does SQRQCQ help students with learning disabilities?

Math word problems tend to be especially challenging for Learning Disabled (LD) students. LD students often lack "Concept Imagery", or the ability to visualize the whole problem by creating a complete mental image. They often jump right into calculations and computations without understanding what the problem is asking or what they're looking for.

LD students may also struggle to understand the words or wording within math word problems correctly. The inability to correctly interpret and understand wording greatly impacts their math reasoning skills and often leads them to making the wrong calculations and arriving incorrect conclusions.

Remembering and manipulating information and details in their working memory is another challenge some LD students face as they try to see the whole picture. Slow processing of information, followed by frustration and anxiety, will often lead LD students to try and get through math word problems as quickly as possible – which is why they often jump straight into computations in their attempt to make it to the finish line as quickly as possible.

SQRQCQ is metacognitive guide the provides LD students with a logical order for solving math word problems. It provides just enough direction to guide them through the reasoning process without overwhelming them. SQRQCQ is also a mnemonic that is easy for students to remember and which they can fall back on when completing homework or taking tests.

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