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How to Create Your Own Word Problems for Math Practice

Math, Story Problems
Blog header for How To Create Your Own Word Problems for Math Practice with a photo of a word problem projected on the board.

Word problems are a great way for students to practice any math skill! Story problems not only build problem solving skills, but also provide opportunities for students to use critical thinking, try out different math strategies, and practice their math communication.

Here’s the thing – you know your students better than anyone. You know the math skills they need more practice with, you know their interests, and you know their ability. Using all of those things can help guide you in creating your own story problems for your math students.

Creating problems for your students may seem like a daunting task, but there are some key things to consider to make it easier. 

Math Skills

Photo of word problem worksheet with words - Pick Your Math Skill.

Word problems are a great way to practice most math skills since it provides context to the math. Before creating problems, think of what specific skills you are wanting your students to practice. If it is start unknown, make sure your story sets up in a way that students have to solve for the first number. If you are working on subtraction, you can create problems that have to do with someone giving something away. 

Interests

Photo of kid playing baseball with words - Use Students' Interests

When I create my own word problems, I always try to tie in my students to the story. I use their names and also their interests. This helps build engagement and makes them more interested in solving the problems.  Students love to see whose name is in the problems. 

If Johnny likes baseball, I try to create a problem about him playing baseball.  If Sara loves to read books, I create a problem about her checking out books from the library. This small step of using your students’ name and interests can be a game changer when it comes to students being excited to solve story problems.

Real-Life Situations

Photo of canned food drive with words - Incorporate Real-Life Situations.

Story problems are an amazing way for students to practice solving real-world problems! Most standards actually tie that language into some of their story problem standards.  Try to tie the word problem into something you are working on in class or something the kids might have participated in during outside school time.  

For example, say your school is having a canned food drive. You could create a word problem where students know how many cans have been collected so far and then a goal number of cans to try to reach. In this problem, you could ask students to figure out how many more cans are needed to reach the goal.

Differentiation

Photo of word problem worksheet with words - Differentiate.

Another thing I take into consideration when creating word problems is differentiation. Most if not all math classrooms have students at a variety of levels with a variety of needs. When creating problems for my class I take that it into account.

By creating my own, I’m able to change up the numbers as needed to make the problems work for my students. I will often use the same problem for all groups, but tweak the numbers. This saves me time and also differentiates for my students so they are able to get the practice they need.

Modifications

Photo of student solving problem with the words - Make Modifications.

When you create your own word problems you are also able to make modifications to the problems. For example, if you have some students who are struggling with reading you could make sure to include words they are able to decode. You could also include a picture with the problem to help them with the context. 

Word Problem FREEBIES

If you are looking for some word problems that are already differentiated and created for you, check out these FREEBIES below!

Word Problems Ready-to-Go

If you’d like further practice for your students that is differentiated and can be used for homework, independent practice, or assessments, click below…

More Word Problem Info

How to Teach Graphing Skills in Engaging and Interactive Ways

Math
Blog header for Teaching Graphing skills. Includes photo of bags of Skittles and Skittles bar graph.

One of my favorite math units is to teach graphing skills. Graphing in 2nd grade focuses on being able to read and interpret bar graphs, picture graphs, and line plots. Students also need to be able to create these graphs from data collected. I love having my students practice these skills with fun and hands-on activities! Keep reading to learn more ways you can teach graphing skills to your math students…

Books to Teach Graphing Skills

Books for teaching graphing skills.

Here are a few books you can use to teach graphing skills:

Teach Graphing Skills with Objects

Photo of small erasers that could be used as a manipulative to teach graphing.

Students can create their own pictograph by using the little erasers found in the Target Dollar Spot or other math manipulatives. For some students, it helps their understanding to be able to manipulate and move the items on the graph.

Creating Class Graphs

When I first introduce graphing to my class, we create a lot of graphs together. I pose a question for the class and then we take the data from their responses to create the bar graph or pictograph (whichever we’re focusing on at the moment).  For both of these types of graphs, we talk about how they focus on categorical data. 

This can also be a great way to teach graphing skills and tie in cross-curricular topics.  For your data, you can ask students a question about something in science or social studies to tie in different subject area.

Graphing Observations

Photo of anchor chart of a bar graph with student observations. Bar graph is focused on favorite specials.

During our data analysis unit, we spend a lot of time making observations. In addition to students being able to read the graph and answer specific questions, I also like them to just make their own observations.  I will often set up a blank piece of anchor chart paper, we’ll analyze a graph, and students will just share out what they notice. This is another great way to check for understanding.

Independent Practice

Photo of Color graph that can be used for independent graphing practice.

I had a hard time finding graphing practice that had the types of questions and graphing data I was looking for, so I created some of my own. For independent practice, I have students just read and answer questions from the graph and then also use data to create their own graphs.  I also wanted to extend the activity for some students by bringing in two sets of data to make it more challenging.  If you’re looking for some graphing practice already created for you, check out my graphing resource.

Skittles Graphing 

Photo of graphing activity where students graph the bag of Skittles colors.

Students always enjoy activities that have to do with food – so why not bring food into graphing! Each year, I love to have my students graph Skittles. I put a handful of Skittles in a ziploc bag and then students have to sort the colors, create a graph, and then answer questions. This is a fun, hands-on way for them to practice.

Line Plots

Photo example of line plot practice.

Line plots always tend to be trickier for students.  Since line plots are dealing with numerical data, not categorical, they sometimes get a little tripped up.  I again create some line plots together. One question I alway start with is – How many years have you been at our school? We also go over the importance of carefully labeling the line plots so we and others can interpret it.

Students then go on to interpret line plots and create them themselves. 

Create Your Own Graph Project

Photo of Create Your Own Graph project for students to work on in a group.

At the end of our graphing unit, after we have learned about bar graphs, picture graphs, and line plots I love to have the class work on a culminating project. This project can be done individually or in a group. 

Students get to create their own survey question and then survey they class. As they are surveying, they record the results and then create the graph that matches their data (categorical – bar graph or picture graph, numerical – line plot). When they are finished, they come up with a list of observations that they’ve made from their graph and present it to the class.

FREE Line Plot Small Group Activity

Looking for FREE line plot practice? Click HERE to grab my FREE small group Line Plot activity.

For more graphing practice…

Photo of sample of graphing practice in my TPT store - Team J's Classroom Fun.

For more information about how to teach graphing skills...

Division Strategies: Building a Strong Foundation for Mathematical Proficiency

Math
Blog header - Division Strategies

Mathematics can sometimes feel like a tricky puzzle, especially when it comes to division strategies. Many students find division challenging and overwhelming, but fear not! There are fantastic division strategies that can make this math operation a whole lot easier and even enjoyable.

We’re going to explore some key division strategies that will help you build a strong foundation for math success. Whether you’re a parent or teacher searching for tools to support young learners, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll start with the basics and gradually move on to more advanced approaches. By mastering these division strategies, students can not only solve division problems accurately but also develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and a deeper understanding of number relationships. These strategies lay the groundwork for more advanced mathematical concepts and serve as stepping stones toward mathematical fluency.

Division Strategies

Below you will see five different division math strategies that your students might use.  Each student will be in a different spot with their math strategies. For example, some students need the concrete/manipulatives and equal groups will be best for them.  Other students might be ready for repeated subtraction or related facts.  Students can use a variety of strategies and will move through them at different rates when they are ready. I highly recommend letting them explore these strategies first so they understand the concept of division before having them memorize their division facts.

Equal Groups

Photo of math problem 18/6 = 3. 6 circles are drawn with 3 dots in each circle.

Draw out circles for the number of groups that you have. This problem is 18 divided into 6 groups and we need to figure out how many are in each group. Then, in each group put 1 dot until you get to 18. Finally, students will count how many are in each circle/group. Students can count these in a variety of ways. Some students may count by 1s, 2s, 4s. I recommend having them write the number they are on below each circle to help them keep track. After counting by 1’s, the students came to the answer of 3.

Bar Diagram

Photo of division problem 18/6 = square
Rectangular bar divided into 6 equal groups. 3 dots in each group with the number 3 below each spot.

This is very similar to equal groups just a different way to visually represent the problem. Students will draw out a rectangular bar and then divide that bar into 6 groups. Then, they will put one in each group until they get to the total number they started with – 18. Then, count how many are in each group. Some students might also like the visual with the number 3 instead of the dots depending on where they are in their understanding of division.

Repeated Subtraction

Photo of division problem 18/6 = square
18 - 6 = 12
12 - 6 = 6
6 - 6 = 0
Answer is 3.

Repeated subtraction is exactly like repeated addition except you’re subtracting. For this problem, students would start at 18 and would start subtracting by 6 until they get to 0. For example – 18-6 = 12, 12-6 = 6, and then 6-6 = 0. They had to subtract 6 – 3 different times so 3 is the quotient.

Empty Number Line

Photo of division problem 18/6 = square
Number line with jumps back from 18  taking away 6 each time until it gets to 0.

The empty number line division strategy is similar to repeated subtraction just a different way of visualizing it. For students who like to use empty number lines in math, this strategy might be the best one for them. Students start by drawing their empty number line and placing the starting number 18 on the far right. Then, they subtract 6 until they get to 0. They had to subtract 6 – 3 times so the answer is 3.

Related Facts

Photo of division problem 18/6 = square
6 x what is 18 - 3 is put in the box os 18 /6 = 3.

For math students who have a solid understanding of multiplication and are ready for a more abstract strategy – related facts might work for them. For this strategy, students turn the division problem 18/6 = ___ into a multiplication problem 6 x __ = 18. So now they are trying to figure out what they would multiply by 6 to get to 18 and then using that related fact to solve the division problem.

Division Strategies Exit Ticket FREEBIE

Photo of 3 division exit tickets on top of a desk with a pencil.

Grab this FREE set of exit tickets that will provide your math students with a chance to practice and demonstrate their division strategies. Includes 3 half-page questions that make a great exit ticket, independent practice, or formative assessment. Click HERE for your Division Strategies FREEBIE.

For more info…

Division Tip for Conceptual Understanding

Differentiated Division Word Problems

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How to Make Word Problems More Engaging for Students

Math, Story Problems
Photo of word problem projected on white board.

Word problems. Just the mention of those two words can make many students break into a cold sweat. These mathematical conundrums have long been a source of frustration and anxiety for learners of all ages. However, as educators, we have the power to transform these intimidating challenges into engaging opportunities for growth and learning.

Word problems are not only integral to mathematics education but also play a crucial role in developing critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and real-life application of mathematical concepts. Yet, all too often, they become a tedious exercise in plugging numbers into formulas, leaving students disenchanted and disconnected from the beauty of mathematics.

The good news is that there are practical strategies and creative approaches we can employ to make word problems more captivating and relevant to our students. By infusing excitement and relevance into these mathematical puzzles, we can foster a genuine interest in problem-solving, encourage active participation, and ultimately empower our students to become confident mathematical thinkers.

In this blog post, we will explore a variety of techniques and approaches to transform the way we present word problems to our students. From incorporating real-world contexts and relatable scenarios to leveraging collaborative learning, we will discover how to make word problems come alive in the classroom. So, let’s dive in and uncover the secrets to making word problems more engaging for our students. Together, we can turn these mathematical challenges into exciting adventures that inspire a lifelong love for learning.

Tip#1 – Use real-life examples

Use word problems that relate to real-life situations that students can relate to. This will help students see the practical applications of math and make it more interesting. I like to bring in real-world examples that fit students’ interests. I also like to bring in word problems from my own experience – at the grocery store, at a restaurant, trying to figure out how many stickers come in the pack, etc.

Tip #2 – Encourage group work

Photo of teacher standing and helping 4 students who are sitting.

Encourage students to work in groups to solve word problems together. This will allow them to discuss their ideas and work collaboratively, which can help them better understand the problem and come up with creative solutions.

Building Thinking Classrooms is a great example of collaborative group work and problem solving. You can learn more about it >>> HERE.

Tip #3 – Provide visual aids

Photo of Subtraction Strategies Anchor Chart.

Use visual aids such as diagrams, charts, and graphs to help students visualize the problem and better understand the concepts involved. I create a lot of math anchor charts with my students, which they can then refer back to during independent work and word problems. Visual aids are great to help students who might need a little assistance getting started or a reminder of strategies they know.

Tip #4 – Students share strategies

When it comes to solving word problems in math, students often employ a wide range of strategies. These strategies should be shared and celebrated in the classroom. By encouraging students to share their approaches, whether it’s using diagrams, creating equations, or employing mental math techniques, we can create a vibrant learning environment where students learn from each other, gain new perspectives, and build confidence in their problem-solving abilities.

Get a Word Problem FREEBIE

I have 3 FREEBIES for you to choose from today! You can grab an Addition, Multiplication, or Elapsed Time Word Problem FREEBIE. You can download one or all three!

FREE Addition Word Problems

FREE Multiplication Word Problems

FREE Elapsed Time Word Problems

For more Word Problem Ideas…

Additional Word Problem Resources:

Math Idea for Introducing Line Plots

Math
Blog Header for Math Idea for Introducing Line Plots

Line Plots can be a tricky data analysis skill to teach, but to be honest – it’s one of my favorites! The more practice kids get with this math skill the better! Today I’m sharing with you an easy line plot idea you can use with your class!

Line Plot Idea

Photo of Number of Years at Our School Line Plot

As with all graphing standards I love to create graphs with my students and line plots are no exception! I love to use this question for one of our first line plots – How long have you been at our school? Now, depending on your school the data could range. One of the schools I taught at had preschool and pre-k so by 2nd grade some of the students had been there 5 years.  

After I pose the question, students can either verbally respond and I’ll chart their answer or they can respond on sticky notes. Sticky notes are a great idea at first because then you can work as a class to organize the data and come up with a good way to sort it (this is where the line plot comes in).

We then set the line plot up based on our numbers and each x represents one student’s answer. After creating this chart, I ask a variety of questions for the students to answer using the data for the line plot.

Here are a few questions I ask…

  • How many students attended for 1 (2, 3, 4, etc) years?
  • Which number of years had the most?
  • Which number of years had the least?
  • How many students were surveyed?
  • Did more students attend 2 or 3 years?
  • How many more/fewer students attended 4 years than 1 year?
  • How many students attended 2 years or more?

Line Plot Practice

Photo of Line Plot Activity from Team J's Classroom Fun TPT Store

If you are interested in more line plot practice, check out my Line Plot Activities >>> HERE in my TPT store. It includes independent practice, small group practice, a project, differentiated practice, and more!

Line Plot FREEBIE

Photo of Line Plot FREEBIE

I have a FREE Line Plot Small Group Practice page for you to grab today! Click HERE for a Line Plot FREEBIE!

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Digit Place – Engaging Place Value Game

Math
Blog Header - Place Value Game

Place value is an important skill in math and one that we practice a lot in the primary grades. Today I’m excited to share with you one of my favorite games that focuses on place value and it’s one you can play all year long!

This game is called Digit Place and this can be played whole group, small group, or with a partner.  I recommend playing whole group many times before moving this into a partner game. Digit Place is also a great Morning Meeting Activity and could also be used as a math warm-up or a game to play when you have a few extra minutes.

Digit Place Game Instructions:

Here’s how you play:

  1. You make 3 columns on the white board – Guess | Digits | Place
  2. I also put up numbers 0-9 so we can cross off numbers after we eliminate them – there is a lot of strategy in this game too.
  3. You think of a secret number that the kids will have to figure out – this can be 2-digit, 3-digit, 4-digit, etc – depending on your class’s needs.
  4. Your students will guess a number. *Let’s say my secret number is 352.  They guess 201.  I will then write their guess in the guess column and write a 1 in the digits and a 0 in the place because they got one of the digits correct (2), but that digit was not in the correct place.
  5. We keep going until we get to the correct number

*This game has some strategy to it too.  I will often have students figure out if the guess all of one number it can help us quickly figure out what the 3 digits are. For example, if they guess 999 and I say 0 numbers are correct – then we know 9 isn’t one of the numbers.

Digit Place FREEBIE

Photo of FREE Digit Place Recording Sheet

Grab this FREE Digit Place Recording Sheet printable! This is great for small groups or partners and can be used as a math game in stations once students get the hang of it. Click HERE to get your FREE recording sheet!

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Multiplication Math Strategies

Math
Blog Header for Multiplication Math Strategies - shows photo of equal groups

Introducing multiplication to my class is one of my favorite math units to teach! I love giving them opportunities to explore the different multiplication math strategies and then finding the one that works best for them!

Multiplication Math Strategies:

Below you will see four different multiplication math strategies that your students might use.  Each student will be in a different spot with their math strategies. For example, some students need the concrete/manipulatives and equal groups will be best for them.  Other students might be ready for skip counting or repeated addition.  Students can use a variety of strategies and will move through them at different rates when they are ready. I highly recommend letting them explore these strategies first so they understand the concept of multiplication before having them memorize their multiplication facts.

Equal Groups:

Photo of equal groups strategy - 6 groups of 4 dots

Draw out circles for the number of groups that you have. This problem represents 6 groups of 4. Then, in each group put 4 dots. Then, students will count them. Students can count these in a variety of ways. Some students may count by 1s, 2s, 4s. I recommend having them write the number they are on below each circle to help them keep track. After counting by 2’s, the students came to the answer of 24.

Arrays:

Photo of array strategy - 6 rows with 4 x's

Arrays are another great visual strategy. Again this problem represents 6 groups of 4. In terms of arrays, this means 6 rows of 4. So students will draw out 6 rows of 4 using “x’s.” Then students count the total to find the answer of 24.

Repeated Addition:

Photo of repeated addition strategy - 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4

For repeated addition, students will still need to find the answer for 6 groups of 4. So they start by adding 4 six times. Doubles come into play with this, which can make it easier for students to quickly add up the numbers and come to the answer of 24.

Skip Counting:

Photo of skip counting by 4's

For students who are strong with skip counting it can be a great strategy for multiplication. For 6 x4 – students need to skip count 4 six times – 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24.

Multiplication FREEBIE

Picture of multiplication worksheet

Grab these FREE Multiplication Word Problem Practice pages for your students! These are great for homework, formative assessments, independent practice, and more! Click HERE to get your FREEBIE!

Extra Multiplication Practice

If you are interested in more multiplication practice for your students, check out my resources below.

Multiplication Practice Worksheets

Differentiated Multiplication Word Problem Worksheets

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January Classroom Ideas

Reading, Math

Please note Amazon affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Blog Header for January Classroom Ideas. Photos of Snowmen Book, Free Writing Prompt, Word Activity, and Crumpled paper.

Today I’ll be rounding up a variety of teaching ideas that you can use during the month of January. I will share some engaging books, activities, and a FREEBIE that you can use with your class.

January Book Suggestions:

Photos of 5 January Books - The Mitten, How to Catch a Snowman, Snowmen at Night, Sneezy the Snowman, and Snow Globe Family

Here are five fun books that you can share with your class during the month of January.

January Classroom Ideas for Grouping Students:

Photo of crumpled paper for January Classroom Idea

One of my favorite greetings for Morning Meeting is the Snowball Greeting, which can also be used to help group or partner students. For this snowball activity, each student will need a piece of blank paper and they’ll write their name in the middle of it. Then, students will stand in a circle and crumple their paper up (making it a snowball). Then, you’ll announce snowball fight and students will toss their paper/snowball into the middle of the circle. Students will then go into the middle to grab a snowball (you’ll want to go over expectations for this so it doesn’t turn into chaos). Students will read the name on the snowball they grabbed and that will then be their partner for the activity or discussion. You can also have students continue to do this after each question so they get a different partner to work with each time.

January Resource Suggestions:

Photo of January Slides, Word problem, and making words activity for January Classroom Ideas.

Here are three of my favorite resources to use during the month of January…

  1. January Morning Meeting Activity Slides – You’ll have your entire month of January planned out for Morning Meeting Activities with this easy-to-use resource! Includes activities like Noggle, Word Creator, Story Starter, Quick Draw, and more! Click HERE to grab these for your class.
  2. Winter Word Problems – I love using word problems in the classroom since they hit so many skills (addition, subtraction, strategies, problem solving, and more). These winter themed word problems are great for independent practice, can be used as an Around the Room Activity, and more! Get these word problems HERE for your math students! (Digital and Print and Digital Bundle are also available in my store).
  3. Winter Making Words – Students love this activity and it is perfect for a literacy station! Students cut up the letters and use those letters to make as many words as they can. They also are working to figure out what the mystery word is using all of their letters! Grab it HERE for your class.

January Classroom Ideas FREEBIE:

Photo of Free Writing Prompts with Snowman Prompt - How to Build a Snowman

These FREE Winter Writing Prompts are perfect to use in your classroom during the month of January! This FREEBIE includes 4 different prompts total and cover narrative, opinion, and procedural writing. These engaging prompts are great to use as a writing warm-up, for homework, literacy stations, and more! Grab this FREEBIE >>> HERE.

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Subtraction Math Strategies

Math
Blog header for Subtraction Math Strategies

Math has always been one of my favorite subjects to teach.  I think one of the main reasons why I enjoy teaching math so much is the variety of strategies that can be used to solve a math problem.  After reading this post you’ll learn four different subtraction math strategies that your students could use to help boost their understanding and math problem solving abilities.

Subtraction Math Strategies:

Below you will see four different subtraction math strategies that your students might use.  Each student will be in a different spot with their math strategies. For example, some students need the concrete/manipulatives and place value strategy will be best for them.  Other students might be really good at breaking numbers apart and using them in different ways – then break apart or expanded might be best for them.  With math strategies there is not a one size fits all type of mentality.  Students can use a variety of strategies and will move through them at different rates when they are ready.

Place Value Strategy:

Photo of place value strategy

Draw out how many there are to start with – 95  Then, take away or cross out how many are being taken away – 56.  Start by crossing out the 5 tens for 50.  Then, you have 5 ones and you can’t take away 6 from 5 so, take a ten and regroup it into 10 ones.  (Circle the ten and change it into the ten ones (dots)).  Now, you can take away the 6 ones.  Then, count what is left – 10, 20, 30, and 9 more so 39.

Empty Number Line Strategy:

Photo of empty number line subtraction math strategy

First, draw an empty number line.  Then, start at the number that you’re beginning with – 95.  95 will go on the right side of the empty number line because you are subtracting so your number will be getting smaller.  Then, 56 can be taken away a few different ways. In this example, they first took away 50 and got to 45. Then, took away 5 and got to 40 (friendly number) and one more and got to 39.  Students could also take away all 6 ones.  The 50 could also be broken down into – 20, 20, 10 – 10, 10, 10, 10, 10 – 30, 20 – 40, 10 – etc.

Break Apart Strategy:

Picture of break apart strategy

For break apart, leave the first number together since this is the number that you are starting with.  Then, break apart the number that you are taking away.  So, 56 would break into 50 and 6 (expanded notation).  Then, 95 – 50 = 45 and 45 – 6 = 39.  

Expanded Form Strategy:

Photo of expanded form strategy

First, change each number into expanded notation. 95 = 90 + 5 and 56 = 50 + 6.  Then, subtract the ones from the ones.  You can’t take away 6 from 5.  So, you take ten from the 90 to add to the ones.  When you take ten from the 90, the 90 turns into 80.  Then, add the ten you took to your ones 10 + 5 = 15.  Now, you can subtract.  15 – 6 = 9 and 80 – 50 = 30.  Then put the numbers back together 30 + 9 = 39.

Subtraction Practice:

Photo of subtraction word problem resource

If you’re looking for some subtraction practice pages for your students to practice these strategies – I have worksheets already created for you.  Best part is – they are differentiated into 3 levels! These Subtraction Word Problem Printables are great for independent practice, homework, formative assessments, and more. Check them out here >>> Subtraction Differentiated Word Problem Worksheets.

If you are interested in learning about Addition Math Strategies, check out my blog post>>>HERE.

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Addition Math Strategies

Math
Blog header with photo of addition math strategy.

Math has always been one of my favorite subjects to teach.  I think one of the main reasons why I enjoy teaching math so much is the variety of strategies that can be used to solve a math problem.  After reading this post you’ll learn four different addition math strategies that your students could use to help boost their understanding and math problem solving abilities.

Variety of Math Strategies:

While in math there is typically one right answer – there are many different ways you can get there. When I was in school I was good at math and got the right answer, but had no idea how or why.  For addition, my teacher taught me one way – with carrying over and I did and I got the answer. But, I didn’t really understand the “why” behind the math. What I love about teaching math now is we let kids figure it out for themselves.  We give kids a chance to explore multiple strategies and find the right one for them. There is no more one size fits all.  I wish I had learned math this way when I was younger (and please know I’m not faulting my past teachers – this is just the way it was taught then).

Addition Math Strategies:

Below you will see four different addition math strategies that your students might use.  Each student will be in a different spot with their math strategies. For example, some students need the concrete/manipulatives and place value strategy will be best for them.  Other students might be really good at breaking numbers apart and using them in different ways – then break apart or expanded might be best for them.  

Students can also move through the strategies.  One student might start with place value strategy, but as they become more comfortable in math they then move on to empty number line or one of the others. Students aren’t pigeon holed into their strategy. Think of it almost like a buffet where they can try the different strategies and see which one works best for them.

Place Value Strategy:

Example of place value addition math strategy. Students use base-10 blocks to solve the problem.

Start by drawing out the place value model using base 10 blocks for each number.  Students would draw 3 tens sticks and 9 ones dots to represent 39 and then below 2 tens sticks and 8 ones dots to represent 28.  Then, count the ones.  There are 17 ones.  Since there are more than 10, you would regroup.  Circle the ten ones and draw an arrow to the new ten that you made over in the tens area.  Then count up your tens (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60) and 7 ones and your answer will be 67.

Empty Number Line Strategy:

Photo of empty number line strategy.

For empty number line strategy you start with an empty line.  Students have a choice and can either start at 39 or 28.  This is a great learning opportunity to talk about what is more efficient.  It would be easier to count up 28 then 39.  So on the left side of the number line, place the number 39.  Then, for counting there are multiple options.  We want to avoid students counting all 28 by ones so they can break it into tens and ones. Some students might start at 39 and jump 10 to 49 and 10 to 59 and then count up 8 ones to get to 67. Some students might start at 39 and jump 20 to 59 and then 8 ones to get to 67. There are multiple ways students can use the number line to help them solve the problem.

Break Apart Strategy:

Photo of break apart addition math strategy.

For the break apart strategy it is just what it sounds like – students are going to break the numbers apart into tens and ones. 39 breaks into 30 and 9. 28 breaks into 20 and 8.  Students will then add 30 and 20 and get 50. Then, add 9 and 8 and get 17. Then they’ll add 50 and 17 to get 67.

Expanded Form Strategy:

Photo of expanded form addition math strategy.

This is one of my favorite strategies and it is very similar to the break apart strategy.  Students will start by writing both numbers in expanded form.  39 expands to 30 + 9 and 28 expands to 20 + 8. These numbers will be written vertically on top of each other (ones on top of ones, tens on top of tens).  Then students add straight down.  9 + 8 = 17. The student will write down 7 in the ones spot and then move the 10 up to the 10s spot.  Then add 10 + 30 + 20 = 60.  Then, put the numbers back together 60 + 7 = 67.

Addition Practice FREEBIE:

Grab a FREE set of Differentiated Addition Word Problems for your students to use to practice their addition strategies. Click HERE for your FREEBIE!

Even More Addition Practice:

Photo of 3 addition word problem worksheets.

If you’re looking for some addition practice pages for your students to practice these strategies – I have worksheets already created for you.  Best part is – they are differentiated into 3 levels! These Addition Word Problem Printables are great for independent practice, homework, formative assessments, and more. Check them out here >>> Addition Differentiated Word Problem Worksheets.

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