One of the most frustrating exercises students face in mathematics is dealing with problems set up without numbers. There may be a few variables defined within the sentences they are given, but it is up to them to put together how to manage the information and come up with a solution. It can be discouraging to those unable to figure out how to set up their problem, and few appreciate how much easier the actual mathematical component can be. Solving word problems is an area most students would prefer to skip in their math classes, but it does have real world applications.
Reading a word problem is the first step in coming up with a solution, and how a student reads it can give them a lead on setting it up. Some students miss a component or two, and that alone can keep them from being able to figure it out. Frustration can become a byword as they spend days or weeks trying to master this skill, and their rejection of the notion it will help them in life is generally where the concept takes root.
Each problem designed for students is formulated to help them learn how to pick out the important components so they can create a solution. The words matter less than they might imagine, but many of them focus on that aspect alone. Being able to set up the solution will take critical and rational thinking skills, and this is the area where they need to concentrate.
Life holds many problems and issues, and solutions may not be readily apparent. Mathematical skills might seem only good in the areas of finance or supply, but the word problems are where critical and rational thinking skills will help them in other areas of life. Mastering them might be difficult for the majority, but passing the class is a way to help them find solutions far into their future.