Teachers often report that many students simply refuse to attempt assessment items when there is a significant amount of reading, such as this item from an ACT practice test:

A hot-air balloon 70 meters above the ground is falling at a constant rate of 6 meters per second while another hot-air balloon 10 meters above the ground is rising at a constant rate of 15 meters per second. To the nearest tenth of a second, after how many seconds will the 2 balloons be the same height above the ground?

A simple strategy students can use for longer word problems such as these is to list each of the numbers in the problem, the unit for that quantity, and a label for that quantity.

number

unit

label

70

meters

height of balloon 1

6

meters per sec.

rate of falling of balloon 1

10

meters

heights of balloon 2

15

meters per sec.

rate of rising of balloon 2

1/10

second

accuracy of answer

2

balloons

I knew that already

Listing the numbers, units and labels helps students lay out the problem in pieces. In this problem, the number “1/10” gives them a clue about what they should find in the problem (see the K-W-C strategy to identify “What you want to find out.”)

The next step they choose depends on their problem-solving preference. They might make a drawing (see Strategy 9); they might make a table of values and solve it that way; they might draw a graph; they might make a single equation or a set of simultaneous equations.

To get students started on this strategy, you’ll have to talk it through with them several times (see the Think-Aloud strategy). Eventually you want them to use this kind of chart on their own to help them understand and set up the problem.

## Strategy 7: Number - Unit - Label

Teachers often report that many students simply refuse to attempt assessment items when there is a significant amount of reading, such as this item from an ACT practice test:

A hot-air balloon 70 meters above the ground is falling at a constant rate of 6 meters per second while another hot-air balloon 10 meters above the ground is rising at a constant rate of 15 meters per second. To the nearest tenth of a second, after how many seconds will the 2 balloons be the same height above the ground?A simple strategy students can use for longer word problems such as these is to list each of the numbers in the problem, the unit for that quantity, and a label for that quantity.

numberunitlabelThe next step they choose depends on their problem-solving preference. They might make a drawing (see Strategy 9); they might make a table of values and solve it that way; they might draw a graph; they might make a single equation or a set of simultaneous equations.

To get students started on this strategy, you’ll have to talk it through with them several times (see the Think-Aloud strategy). Eventually you want them to use this kind of chart on their own to help them understand and set up the problem.