Intervention strategy: star for Algebraic Word Problems

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STAR for Algebraic Word Problems

Brief Description: This mnemonic strategy is designed to improve students’ algebraic word problem-solving skills.

Materials Needed:

  • Cue cards printed with mnemonic and what it stands for

  • Classroom posters printed with mnemonic and what it stands for

Implementation: This strategy can be implemented individually, in small groups, or whole group. It can be facilitated by a teacher, paraprofessional or adult volunteer.
The following steps should be taken when introducing any mnemonic strategy:

  1. Discuss the purpose of this strategy and model when to use it.

  2. Model what each letter in the mnemonic stands for and how it relates to solving the math problem.

  3. Model how to apply it to what students have already learned about solving problems.

  4. Provide students with cue cards printed with the mnemonic to place on their desks or to place in their math folders.

  5. Put up posters of the mnemonic on the walls of the classroom.

  6. Use rapid-fire verbal rehearsal to help students remember the strategy.

Create posters and cue cards with these steps:

SSearch the word problem.

  • Read the problem carefully.

  • Ask yourself questions: “What facts do I know? What do I need to find?”

T – Translate the words into an equation in picture form.

  • Choose a variable.

  • Identify the operation(s).

  • Represent the problem with a concrete application (see the intervention entitled “Hands on Equations” in this Interventions folder for more information on concrete application).

  • Draw a picture of the representation (semi-concrete application).

  • Write an algebraic equation (abstract application).

A – Answer the problem.

R – Review the solution.

  • Reread the problem.

  • Ask questions: “Does the answer make sense? Why?”

  • Check answer.

Students should check off each step as it is completed.

Schedule for implementation: The procedure should be taught until students have mastered the steps and use the strategy independently. Reinforcement of the strategy should occur daily when working on word problems.

Variations: n/a

Research Summary & References:

This strategy and other mnemonic letter strategies can be found on The Access Center Website: Improving Outcomes for All Students k-8 at

Ehren, Barbara J. (2005). Mnemonic Devices. University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. http://itc.gsu.edud/academymodules/a304/support/xpages/a304b0_20600.html


The file entitled “STAR for Algebraic Word Problems cue cards” in the TOOLS folder on this disk provides cue cards you can print and provide to individual students.

The file entitled “STAR for Algebraic Word Problems poster” in the TOOLS folder on this disk provides a poster you can print and post in the classroom.

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