Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about solving word problems. It is designed to complement the Solving Word Problems topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Pose a word problem, such as, “Moby has 8 stickers. He gets 3 more. How many stickers does he have all together?” Discuss the problem with children. How would they solve it? Explain that when they come across a word problem, they should follow four steps to help them solve. First, they need to understand the problem. Then, they make a plan to solve it. Next, they carry out their plan to solve, and finally, they check their work.

Brainstorm different ways to understand the word problem you just posed. If allowed, students can circle important information, such as numbers, and underline the question they must answer. Some questions may have irrelevant information; encourage children to focus on the details that are necessary to solve the problem. They may want to read the question out loud and then repeat it in their own words. They should pay particular attention to key words that can give them clues as to what operation to use to solve the problem. For example, “in all” or “all together” might be hints to add or multiply. Key words like “fewer” or “less” might be hints to subtract.

After children have an understanding of the problem, they must make a plan to solve. Remind them that a strategy is a plan for solving a problem or reaching a goal. Encourage students to find and use a variety of strategies to solve the problem, as different strategies work best for different problems. Students may want to draw pictures, use models or counters, or even act out the problem. They can create a chart or table to help them find number patterns or write a number sentence to help them solve. Remind children that as long as they solve the problem, they can use whatever strategy works best for them. There is more than one way to solve a problem! What plan would they use to solve the word problem you posed? Discuss with the students.

After they make a plan, they must carry out their plan and solve the problem. Encourage children to work methodically and slowly. They shouldn’t skip steps or rush—they will be more likely to make careless mistakes. It is also important for children to show their work. Remind children that after they solve, they should check over their work. If they wrote a number a sentence to solve, they should recheck their calculations. If they created a drawing or chart, they should look over those as well. Ideally, students would use a different strategy to solve the problem to confirm their answers. Finally encourage children to make sure they answered the question.

If students do not get the correct answer or find a mistake in their work, it’s okay! They can try creating another plan to solve the problem. They may want to employ a different strategy to solve the problem. Some students get overwhelmed or discouraged when they face a word problem. Help ease their anxieties and explain that having a process will help them break down the problem into more manageable steps.