Students may require supplemental support when underlining the important information. It can be particularly difficult for some students when the problem contains irrelevant numerical information. For example, students may get into the habit of just underlining all the numbers, which can lead to an incorrect solution. In order to teach students to think critically, they need to see that sometimes there are numbers that aren’t needed to find the answer. Modeling the thought process is important to demonstrate that skill. Following are two strategies to help students underline the important information.

## Determining What is Important

Students who are struggling may need explicit instruction in determining what is important and what isn’t (i.e., irrelevant information). One suggestion is to have master this by working through the Solve It! SAY-ASK-CHECK routine:

**SAY**: Underline the important information.**ASK**: Did I underline the important information?**CHECK**: I read through what I have underlined and make sure that I only underlined the information I need. I cross out the information I do not need.

For students who still struggle, the following scripts might be helpful.

**Script #1**

[*Note*: This next problem has irrelevant numeric information. It probably won’t negatively affect the student’s ability to solve the problem, but it increases the cognitive load. The goal is to eliminate any information that doesn’t help the student solve the problem.]

Oscar pays $6 to enter the county fair. His sister brought $10 with her. He buys ride tickets for $12 and a cold drink for $3. His mother gave him $25. How much money does he have left?

**TEACHER**: Okay, so Oscar has $25. He pays $6, and it says here that he buys ride tickets that cost $12. It also says his sister has $10, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the problem, so it must just be extra information. I’m going to leave it out. Okay, so from the beginning: He starts with $25, and he spends $6, $12, and $3. I need to figure out how much money is left. I’m going to underline the important information, like this:

Oscar pays __$6__ to enter the county fair. His sister brought $10 with her. He buys ride tickets for __$12__ and a cold drink for __$3__. His mother gave him __$25__. How much money does he have left?

**Script #2**

[*Note*: This next problem has irrelevant linguistic information. It probably won’t negatively affect the student’s ability to solve the problem, but it increases the cognitive load. The goal is to eliminate any information that doesn’t help the student solve the problem.]

Susan has 3 pieces of string to tie up boxes for recycling. The lengths are 10 feet, 36 feet, and 22 feet. How much string does Susan have?

**TEACHER**: Okay, so there are 3 pieces of string, which are 10, 36, and 22 feet long. I need to figure out how much string there is altogether. I think that’s it. This problem tells me some details about who has the string [Susan] and what it’s going to be used for [tying boxes up to be recycled], but I don’t really care about that information. It doesn’t help me solve the problem, so I won’t pay attention to it. I know to only underline what is important, because this tells me what I need to focus on in order to put the problem in my own words. I’m going to underline the important information, like this:

Susan has 3 pieces of string to tie up boxes for recycling. The lengths are __10 feet__, __36 feet__, and __22 feet__. How much string does Susan have?

For more on supplemental support, see Solve It! Teaching Mathematical Problem Solving in Inclusive Classrooms—Grades 5-6