There are numerous ways to encourage mathematical thinking in middle school: word problems, algebraic equations, and even games like Chess and Battleship all serve to promote linear logic. However, one of the most effective ways to help your students learn to think logically and solve problems is by having them do word problems as a daily part of math class. If you're looking for ideas, you've come to the right place.
Middle School Word Problems
In middle school, student should become proficient at working with percentages, fractions ratios and algebraic equations.
Daily Allowance of Vitamins and Minerals
One medium stalk of celery contains five percent of the US recommended daily allowance for Vitamin C. How many stalks of celery would you have to eat in order to reach the maximum daily allowance for Vitamin C?
This is a ratio problem. If one medium stalk of celery is equivalent to five percent, how many stalks do you need to get to 100%. To figure this out, set up an equation as follows:
1/5 = x/100
Then cross multiply to get 5x = 100. Divide both sides by 5 to get:
5x/5 = 100/5
To end up with:
x = 20
Answer: You need 20 stalks of celery to reach the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C.
You can make the problem harder by taking any nutrition label, or food item and asking the same question. You can also use portions of whole percentages such as .0125% for example. (As in, this foodstuff has .0125% of the RDA for Vitamin C. . .how much would you have to eat to get 100% of the RDA for Vitamin C?)
Tina is twice as old as Kevin. In three years, the sum of their ages will be 42. How old is Tina?
To solve this problem you need to set up an equation and solve for x. In this case, Tina's age is going to be represented as 2x and Kevin's age will be x. The problem is therefore:
(2x + 3) + (x +3) = 42
Add all values together:
3x + 6 =42
Subtract 6 from both sides:
3x = 36 Divide both sides by 3:
x = 12 but remember that x represents Kevin's age. Tina is actually twice as old so Tina is 24.
Check the answer
It's good to encourage students to check their answers to see if what they've come up with makes sense. Plugging Tina's and Kevin's age back into the original problem:
If Tina is currently 24, that makes Kevin 12. In three years Tina will be 27 and Kevin will be 15 and the sum of their ages is 42.
Other Resources for Middle School Word Problems
There are several other resources out there for middle school math. Here are just a few:
The Math Forum
The Math Forum allows teachers of math to post various word problems, teaching ideas and share other resources.
Open Ended Math Problems
Open Ended Math Problems offers a monthly review of some open ended math problems to really challenge kids to think!
The Math Olympiad
The Math Olympiad is a national competition that students can choose to take part in through their schools. The problems are very challenging. In addition, you will find that there are practice sets if you're not really up for going to competition. This can be a great way to introduce students to the concept.
The Awesome Library
The Awesome Library is the catch all place for homework help. Whether you're looking for help with word problems, algebra or geometry, you're likely to find it here.
Family Math for Middle School, is one resource you cannot afford not to have. It is chock full of good ideas and thoughts on how to encourage math. It is especially valuable for teaching middle school math to kids who don't get math or don't like it.