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Just the bare necessities

Numeracy Ages 7 to 11

Pupils often have difficulties solving word problems, even if they possess the skills to carry out the calculation itself.

When we first tackle such questions, I let pupils rewrite them, changing any words they like - as long as the calculation stays the same.

For example, "What is the cost of four books at pound;3.99 each?" can be changed to finding the price of cakes, sausages, candles or reindeer.

The more ridiculous the idea, the better; they love to share their silly sentences. This helps them to see which parts of the question are important and which don't really matter. From here, we look at written questions and highlight those important pieces of information (on the interactive whiteboard, or on worksheets; they love using highlighter pens, but just underlining will do).

After a while they become quite adept at filtering out the distracting, "unimportant" words and focusing in on the calculation they need to do Mel Heale is a part-time teacher at St Andrew's Church of England Primary in the Wirral Win pound;50! Tell us your teaching secrets Share your brilliant teaching idea with your colleagues - and we'll pay you pound;50. Just send 150 words (plus details of a useful book or website), including your lesson's subject, age group and your name and school to

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