How to help your child conquer word problems for success in 11 plus exams

Pressed for time? Then just press play and listen on the go… If you like what you hear, remember to share!



This topic is rather broad and can incorporate more than one topic in the 11 plus maths syllabus, which makes mastery of this extremely difficult.

There are several ways to help your child with word problems including:


  • Teach the acronym RUCSAC to give your child clear steps to work out multi step word problems. Each letter stands for a procedure: R stands for ‘read the question carefully’; U stands for ‘understand and underline any important parts of the question’; C stands for ‘choose the operations needed to answer the question’; S stands for ‘solve using the operations chosen’; A stands for ‘answer the question’; finally C stands for ‘check your answer to see if it makes sense’.  We have created a free RUCSAC poster for you to download so your child can always be reminded to ‘RUCSAC’ when working out any word problems.


  • Identifying the type of topics he/she struggles with and exposing them to a greater variety of question types or exploring this with them in a hands on approach e.g. if your child finds percentages word problems difficult then focus on a variety of question types in percentages. You could also re-enact word problems with them. For example, to help your child understand how discounts and sales relate to percentages, you can take them shopping with you and ask them to assist you with working out how much you would have to pay if something was on sale.


  • Allow your child to explore answers before helping them. As explained in this very insightful article, “students taught through passive approaches follow and memorise methods instead of learning to inquire, ask questions, and solve problems.” Maths is more than just regurgitating facts and formulas: it is exploring, discovering and proving with logic. Before you assist your child, always encourage them to attempt questions whole-heartedly and give them the opportunity to make mistakes so they can learn from them. You are more likely to remember something if you get it wrong first.


  • Talking through questions/answers, or asking your child to teach you how they reached the answer is a fantastic way of checking if your child’s reasoning and justification of their solution is correct. This also helps students map out their steps logically which will build their confidence in similar word problems. This brilliant article explores how children benefit by simply talking instead of listening in Maths.


In addition, to the above techniques, there are a plethora of great resources available for students to utilise. Below are a few of our firm favourites.


Key Stage 1



Key Stage 2

Feel free to contact us on 0203 488 1278 for personalised advice. And discover our recommended tips for the 7 maths topics children must master for the 11 plus exams .