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Word problems allow students the opportunity to apply their math skills in authentic situations. All too often, children who are able to solve numeric problems find themselves at a loss when faced with a word problem. Some of the best problems to work with are those in which the unknown factor is located in either the beginning or the middle of the problem. For example, instead of saying, "I have 29 balloons and the wind blew eight of them away," and then asking "How many do I have left?" try something like this instead: "I had a lot of balloons but the wind blew eight of them away. Now I only have 21 balloons left. How many did I have to begin with?" Or, "I had 29 balloons, but the wind blew some away, and I only have 21 now. How many balloons did the wind blow away?"
Word Problem Exampleskali9 / Getty Images
As teachers and parents, we're often very good at creating or using word problems in which the unknown value is located at the end of the question. Unfortunately, this type of problem can prove too challenging for young children. By changing the position of the unknown you can create problems that are easier for beginning math students to solve.
Another type of problem that's great for young learners is a two-step problem, which requires them to solve for one unknown before solving for another. Once young students have mastered basic word problems, they can practice two-step (and three-step) problems to work on more challenging concepts. These problems help students learn how to process and relate complex sets of information. Here are some examples:
- Each case of oranges has 12 rows of 12 oranges. The school principal wants to buy enough oranges to make sure that every student gets an orange. There are 524 students in the school. How many cases does the principal need to buy?
- A woman wants to plant tulips in her flower garden. She has enough room to plant 24 tulips. The tulips can be purchased in bunches of five for $7.00 per bunch, or they can be purchased for $1.50 each. The woman wants to spend as little money as possible. What should she do and why?
- The 421 students at Eagle School are going on a trip to the zoo. Each bus has 72 seats. There are also 20 teachers going on the trip to supervise the students. How many buses are needed to make sure that all of the students and teachers are able to go to the zoo?
Students will often need to re-read a question to make sure they have all of the information they need. They should also be encouraged to read the question again to be certain that they actually understand what the question is asking them to solve for.
This worksheet features several basic word problems for young math students.
This worksheet features a set of intermediate word problems for young students who have already mastered basic skills. To solve these problems, students will need to have an understanding of how to count money.
This worksheet features several multi-step problems for advanced students.