If Children Lack Word-Solving & Math Strategies…

The child who lacks word-solving and math strategies may be unsure, lack confidence, and be unwilling to take a risk. He/she may not know word-solving strategies to use when encountering an unknown word. Just because a child learned phonics does not guarantee that he/she will know how to use these skills when reading. Additionally, a child may not attempt words because adults tell the child unknown words and there is no need for the child to learn how to problem solve unknown words. So let’s see what happens if children lack word-solving & math strategies…

In order to help a child, an adult should think about the reasons a child does not know a word and choose an intervention.


  • Praise any attempt a child takes to help himself/herself.
  • Wait 10 seconds before saying anything.
  • Recognize that readers use several different word-solving strategies along with context and meaning to solve an unknown word. Readers do not use phonics alone.For more information see Comprehension Strategies
    For more information see Phonics with Intermediate Readers
  • Be sure the child is reading books that are easy. An easy book is one with fewer than 5 errors per 100 words.
  • Recognize situations where it is okay to tell a child the word, saying, “See if ____ would make sense.”
  • Provide for think-aloud opportunities where the teacher or parent shares how he/she dealt with a difficult word.

The Reader Frequently Asks for Help:

The first word-solving strategy for some readers is to appeal for help. This reader may lack confidence, word-solving strategies, or may have learned that it’s easier to get help than to try on his/her own.


  • Provide ‘wait time’ so the reader can solve his/her own confusions.
  • Say, “What could you try?”
  • Say, “You can do it. You try.”
  • Suggest a strategy that might work in the situation. Say, “Go back and re-read, get your mouth ready, use a word part you know. . . .”
  • Praise. When the reader successfully completes some reading work without asking for help, praise his/her efforts. Say, ” I like how you solved that all by yourself.”
  • Check your own behavior. Are you encouraging the reader to look at you for help by jumping in too soon or telling him/her what to do?

The Reader Fails to Use Context Cues:

One of the strategies for word-solving is using the context of the sentence or piece to figure out unknown words. Sometimes readers become so focused on using letter/sound cues that they fail to use meaning as a source of information.


  • Demonstrate the use of context cues to figure out unknown words or to get meaning from the text.
  • Provide opportunities to practice using context cues. Be sure the context cues examples are appropriate and will lead to success.
  • Praise the reader’s efforts when he/she successfully uses context cues.
  • Say, “What would make sense?”
  • Say, “Reread and see what would make sense.”

Read also how hard Middle School Math sometimes is…

The Reader Fails to Self-correct Errors:

The child may not view reading as a meaning-making process, but as a process of “saying the words”. He/she may be reading the words without thinking about what the words mean. Not stopping to self-correct is the most significant of reading and math difficulties that will require teacher intervention working along side the child.


  • Point out that all readers have difficulty in reading, but that good readers stop if the text doesn’t make sense.
  • Wait 10 seconds before saying anything. Then, if needed, say, “Something didn’t make sense/sound right. Check it.”
  • Praise the reader for any attempt at self-monitoring, responding to what the child is trying to do, even if it begins as a momentary pause.
  • Demonstrate how readers need to stop when the text does not make sense, sound right, or look right.
  • Show the child how readers vary what they do when the text doesn’t make sense.
  • Model how to use fix-up strategies.