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Story Problems

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:

Place Value Strategy for Problem Solving

Math, Story Problems, TPT

We’ve been working through the story problems in my October Story Problem Packet, which can be found on TPT here.  There are a variety of add to, take from, part/part whole, and multiplication and division problems. We’ve been focusing on the straightforward addition and subtraction problems so far, but this week we’re going to try some of the others.

Here are some of our problems…

Prompt: ___ spiders were hanging from the web.  _____ more spiders crawled over.  How many spiders are in the web now?  Number Choices: (23, 20), (43, 41), (67, 52)



What I love about these is students can choose a number choice that works for them. One that challenges them, but doesn’t challenge them so much they get frustrated.  I also love seeing all of the kids using the place value model to solve their problem. We’ve been doing a lot of review of place value with tens and ones and I’m happy to see them applying it to story problems too.
If you’re interested in some October Story Problems to use in your class, check out my packet on TPT here.

October Story Problems – Now on TPT

Math, Story Problems, TPT

I finished up my second story problem packet called October Story Problems.  This packet has 16 story problems.  There are 4 Add To, 4 Take From, 4 Compare, and 4 Equal Groups.  I used equal groups and compare to up the challenge a bit for kids and classes who are ready for it. In addition to the various problem types, there are three number choices for each problem, which lends to easy differentiation.  I also have two formatting methods. A cute full page with clipart and a half page, which makes for easy copying with limited copy numbers.  See a few pages below and be sure to check it out at my TPT store here.

Be sure to check it out at my TPT store.
Happy Sunday everyone!

Story Problems

Math, Story Problems, TPT

I love teaching story problems.  When I was a kid, I actually despised doing them. Something about seeing words in a math problem freaked me out. Now, after being CGI (Cognitively Guided Instruction) trained and after using story problems extensively at my old school – I love them! They are a great way to hit multiple Common Core Math Standards and a great way to get kids thinking and sharing their strategies. 

I came up with a Back to School Packet of Story Problems for 2nd graders, which is on Teachers Pay Teachers, here.  This packet could also be used for high first graders or for 3rd graders in need of some interventions.  In this packet, I have 4 story problems for each type of joining problem and 4 story problems for each type of separating problems.  In addition to the 4 story problems, each story problem has 3 presentation choices.  The story problem can be printed with a graphic, with number choices (great differentiation), or on a half sheet to save paper.  This document can be edited so you may change the numbers, names (students love to see their own names in the problems), or the problem. 

Here are a few student samples from this week in my classroom:

For this problem, my student chose to use the 10 frame to help her organize her problem. She put 25 dots on the one side and 10 on the other. Then, she counted by 10’s, 10, 20, 30 and then the 1’s, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35.  Nice number sentence too!
This student used the place value model to figure out this problem. I was so excited because we really focused on place value this week.  Most of my kiddos are still stuck on drawing everything out by 1’s so I was excited that this student was ready to move on to place value. She has two tens sticks and 5 ones and then another ten stick. Then, she counted the tens and then the ones and got 35. 
So, here is a little sample of my TPT creation that you can check out here

Hope everyone has a great Saturday!!!