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RICE Math Strategies for Third Grade

by Susan Rickey

Working on math word problems can be confusing for third-grade students. The RICE strategy is a problem-solving strategy used to help your child organize his thoughts and work to find an answer to math problems.

R is for Read

Read the word problem to determine the question being asked. Look for key words that will lead you to the correct operation in math. If the problem involves addition, look for the obvious words "add" or "sum," along with "total," "all together," "how many" or "in all." Subtraction problem key words are "difference," "minus", "less," "left" or "remains." Multiplication and division share some key words including "per," "equal," "each" and "every." Find not only the key words, but the key numbers. Some numbers may be included in the problem that are not needed to answer the question being asked. Reread the problem to make sure what is being asked is understood before moving to the next step. Once the problem is understood, ask your child to restate the problem in her own words.

I is for Illustrate

Illustrate the problem with a picture, table or diagram. Ask your child to label the illustration. This is a perfect way to check for understanding. If she is working on a problem that asks for the volume of a swimming pool, check to make sure she has the base, width and height labeled properly. She doesn't have to draw the extra information -- the children who were swimming in the pool, for example.

C is for Calculate

Use the proper math operation and write the equation to calculate the answer. Some math problems require more than one equation to be solved to answer the question asked in the problem. Encourage her to show all of her work. It is easier to find calculation errors if the work is written down.

E is for Evaluate

The RICE strategy now asks your child to evaluate his answer. The child writes out an explanation proving the answer to the question with words. He evaluates his final answer. Does the answer make sense? Did I answer the question that was asked? If the answer doesn't make sense, read the problem again and go through the steps once more.

About the Author

Susan Rickey started writing in 1994 with a technology feature article for the "Pioneer Press." She was the writer of the Klamath Forest Alliance newsletter, an environmental organization. Rickey obtained her teaching credential from California State University and acquired her Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas.

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