This lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-8, features Riddle Books, a math game that challenges students to solve algebra word problems by constructing visual models, and deriving equations from those models.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Read and extract relevant information to solve a word problem.
  2. Construct visual models as a strategy for solving algebra word problems, ranging from addition and subtraction to fractions and multiple variables.
  3. Derive algebraic equations from models they build.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard or other display
  • Class sets of the Brainstorm Activity (if limited computer access)


This lesson features a word problem game called Riddle Books, developed by Center for Game Science. The game challenges players to apply their knowledge of fractions by slicing and slashing blocks into fractional parts.

Review the Riddle Books video tutorial to see how to play the game. Then, preview and play Riddle Books to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices
For ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game, read Riddle Books: SnapThought Prompts for My BrainPOP for more information and specific SnapThought prompts to provide students during game play.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Word Problems, Multiplication, Division and Context Clues

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Prompt pairs to brainstorm ways they use addition, subtraction, multiplication and/or division in their everyday lives. To get students thinking, display and read aloud this Real Life Related Reading, which lists a number of different ways we use math in our daily lives.
  2. Now bring the class together to watch the BrainPOP movie Word Problems on the whiteboard. After the movie, encourage students to discuss what they learned from the movie. Ask students which strategies they might use to solve a word problem. At their own computers or devices have pairs complete the “Brainstorm” section of the  Word Problem activity page.  Or distribute copies if doing the activity offline.  Then have each pairs share their responses with another pair.
  3. Next, have students review their brainstorm of everyday uses of math from the beginning of the lesson. Have each students choose an example and write a word problem related to that situation. For example, if they choose figuring out how much time before the bus comes, then they should write a word problem with specific times. Have them write the answer to their word problem on a small piece of paper, then fold it up.
  4. After writing their word problems and answers, have students swap word problems with a classmate. Allow time for students to solve each other’s word problems. Circulate while students are working and help those who are struggling.
  5. Upon solving the word problem, have students compare their answer to the one on the small piece of paper to confirm. If their answer is not correct, encourage them to figure out what went wrong. Have them consider what strategies they used to solve the problem.
  6. Project the game Riddle Books on the whiteboard and explain that this word problem game challenges players to figure out which pieces of information will help them turn a word problem into a mathematical equation. Demonstrate the tutorial level of the game to model how to play.
  7. Now have students play individually or in pairs for 20-30 minutes. Encourage them to use paper and pencil to work through the problems.
  8. Circulate as students play, answering questions as needed. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought tool to take snapshots during game play, and reflect on their strategies. Review Riddle Books: SnapThought Prompts for My BrainPOP for suggested prompts.  
  9. After students play, bring the class together to discuss their experience, including what was easy and what was challenging. Encourage them to share their SnapThought responses

Extension Activities:

Challenge students to solve the word problems in this Do It! Related Reading.

You may also encourage students to write their own word problems and challenge each other to solve them.