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V.1 #4 Mathematics - Strategies for Successful Word Problem Solving by Students with Learning Disabi

“Strategy instruction” is a promising intervention for helping students with learning disabilities (LD) improve their ability to solve mathematical problems. Strategies for problem solving strategies may range from specific heuristics (methods used by solvers to present word problems in new ways that facilitate understanding) to broad guidelines:

  • Specific heuristics aim directly at helping students understand and solve a problem. Two heuristics are paraphrasing the problem and drawing a picture depicting the situation.

  • Broad guidelines help students activate and monitor domain specific heuristics (e.g. self-monitoring, self-evaluation). An example is asking students involved in solving a problem to first to predict the answer, then to carry out the calculations, and finally to compare their prediction and the result of their calculation (Butler, Beckingham, & Lauscher, 2005).

The FAST DRAW Strategy: A Domain Specific Heuristic

FAST DRAW is a domain specific heuristic that Mercer and Miller (1992) used to teach mathematics to elementary students with learning problems. Specifically, FAST DRAW was used to teach these students to remember multiplication facts and solve word problems.

The initials FAST DRAW stand for:

  • Find what you’re solving for.

  • Ask yourself, what are the parts of the problem.

  • Set up the numbers.

  • Tie down the sign.

  • Discover the (calculation) sign.

  • Read the problem (recognize the numbers involved).

  • Answer or draw and check (if the answer does not come automatically make a drawing that helps you find it).

  • Write the answer.

FAST DRAW uses a concrete-to semiconcrete-to abstract sequence of activities. In concert with this sequence, it successively uses tally marks, drawings, simple words, and traditional paragraphs to present problems. Importantly, difficulty is controlled. The difficulty of problems is increased gradually, following this sequence: Problems are presented as simple computations, then presented in complete sentences, then presented with extraneous information, then presented as traditional word problems. In the final phase, students are asked to create their own problems and to apply multiplication to real–life word problems.

Conceptually, this strategy is sound. Thus, it’s not surprising that Mercer and Miller’s (1992) field-tests found that the students—despite