Ratio and proportion are central ideas in middle school mathematics that can present considerable challenges to many students, but like many mathematical concepts, they can not be understood in isolation. Consequently, there are other aspects of middle school mathematics that can best be served with a clear and concise understanding of ratio and proportion. Some examples from the middle school curricula are as follows: fractions, percents, statistical analysis, investigating patterns in numbers and shape in geometry, divisibility, factoring, and even algebra, especially questions involving rates in travel, interest, taxes, and cooking.
Word problems provide an excellent opportunity to exercise many necessary skills while simultaneously learning ratio and proportion. In particular, there is a specific grammar and form to the word problem that must be mastered in order to do well on standardized tests. These tests seem to require more than a passing familiarity with word problems. It therefore behooves the middle school math teacher to give as many opportunities as possible for the students to not only get familiar with word problems, but to become as comfortable as possible with them. Consequently, what follows are a number of word problems that deal with ratio and proportion, a list of strategies that have been employed by students to reach the answer, necessary tools that I require of my students, a sample classroom procedure, and a list of resources that can provide further access to word problems.