Developing critical thinking skills with math word problems is incredibly important. Students should move beyond simple rote memorization and fact-finding to understand the thought process and concept behind those facts.

In doing so, students are developing strong thinking skills that can help them become successful lifelong learners.

In elementary school, first grade math word problems are a great place to start teaching critical thinking strategies.

Here are some tips to help your first grader think through word problems with a critical mind.

**Create a Plan**

To be a strong critical thinker, your child needs to take the time to plan and strategize before tackling a problem.

You can teach your child to do this by having her read the problem, then dissect what it is asking.

She can then underline the important information in the problem and create a picture or diagram to represent what the problem is asking.

This ensures that he is taking the steps to carefully outline and identify what the problem is asking.

Teaching these steps early on is also incredibly important, as your child will face multi-step problems and ones with distractors in the future.

**Ask “Why?”**

One of the keys to critical thinking in math is being able to not just do the problem, but also to explain why.

In first grade math word problems, the “why” is often quite simple to identify, but you should still be asking.

Find out why the child chose to count, add or subtract. Have him explain his reasoning in his own words and help him write it down. Then, talk about how he came to that conclusion, encouraging him to continue to think about the problem and his steps for solving.

**Ask “Does It Make Sense?”**

Most first grade math word problems are fairly clear in what they are asking the child to do, and your child should stop and reflect on his answer to see if it makes sense.

For example, if the problem creates a scenario where a person has a certain amount of an item and someone gives him more, the answer should be a larger number than he started with, which you would get by adding. If the child chose to subtract, the answer will be smaller than what you started with.

**Use an online math program, like Thinkster, to help with math word problems**

Critical thinking is a crucial component of Thinkster Math’s curriculum.

Thinkster’s curriculum introduces critical thinking problems within the first grade curriculum, giving your child the opportunity to practice and sharper skills and strategies that will help them become incredible lifelong learners and thinkers.

Curious to see your child’s abilities in solving first-grade word problems? Try our 7-day trial! A Skills Assessment and tutor call lead to the creation of a customized learning plan.

With the help of Thinkster’s online tutors, you can ensure that your child has many opportunities to practice critical thinking during these crucial early years.