How to Teach Difficult Word Problems Like a Boss

“And that is how we solve a compare problem!” I say triumphantly as I step away from a white board stuffed with footage and numbers. “Ok, go ahead and try the next one on your own.”

Quiet, clean stares, tapping pencils. No one is aware of what to do.

That’s after I realized that I used to be educating particular person issues and never problem-solving as a complete. My kids wanted me to maintain their fingers by means of every drawback and didn’t know how sort out them on their very own


Eventually, I found a hidden gem for educating drawback fixing that I can’t imagine I didn’t discover sooner, and I’ll share it with you.

But first, let’s be actual for a second:


Problem Solving Expectations Are Off the Hook

You had been most likely a good child like I used to be. Do you keep in mind when you would simply skim for the 2 numbers in a phrase drawback after which both add or subtract, relying on the theme of that facet of the worksheet? Not anymore!

I’m fairly certain I used to be in denial the primary time I read the usual saying my 2nd graders want to clear up issues with “unknowns in all positions.



The considered giving kids an equation with a clean spot anyplace BUT on the finish made my abdomen churn.

The excellent news is, it doesn’t have to be that manner.


The Secret is within the Schema

Do you keep in mind our previous pal Piaget from academic psychology in faculty? He put ahead the concept of schemas that are like frameworks for organizing info in our brains.

For instance, you’ve most likely constructed up a respectable schema about animals through the years. You know there are classes equivalent to mammals, reptiles, birds, and many others. and you’ll record primary traits and examples of those sorts of animals.

So while you encounter an animal on the zoo that you simply’ve by no means seen earlier than, you most likely would say one thing like, “well, it’s got to be some kind of antelope.”

That’s since you seen this animal has 4 legs with hooves, quick bristly fur, a slender physique, and two pointy antlers.

When you reached again into your animal schema and in contrast the traits of this unfamiliar animal with the animals you already learn about, you got here to the cheap conclusions that it was comparable to an antelope.

Schema performs a massive function in problem-solving, too.


How to Build a Word Problem Schema

Have you seen the cube-shaped cabinets at Ikea? I undoubtedly don’t know the Scandinavian time period for them however I do love an organized shelf! It’s a great way to think about a strong phrase drawback schema.

Picture a three×four set of those cabinets. There is one drawback kind for every of the 12 compartments.

12 totally different drawback sorts!?!?

I do know, I do know…however your kids are most likely already acquainted with no less than a couple of them and a few of them are fairly comparable to one another so…you’ve completely acquired this!


When kids are conscious of and have practiced every drawback kind, then after they encounter a new phrase drawback, they’ll examine to the kinds they already learn about and get a good thought of how it could possibly be solved.

The secret gem I referred to earlier is a chart of the issue sorts and how they’re associated that I initially discovered here.


***Get a free problem-types tab e-book and chart to your classroom HERE!***




So what do you do with the chart?

  • Use it to be sure to’re giving college students follow with every drawback kind. (Confession: earlier than discovering this chart I wasn’t even conscious of a few of these drawback sorts)
  • Spend time to specializing in the difficult drawback sorts like evaluating
  • Show college students how to use footage, quantity strains, bar diagrams, and equations to mannequin the issue sorts. Identify which methods work the perfect for every drawback kind.


Kids get a deeper understanding of math ideas after they symbolize them in a number of methods. Problem-solving is the proper alternative to use a number of representations.


  • Give college students phrase issues with the numbers blanked out. This lets them deal with figuring out the issue kind FIRST quite than scanning for 2 numbers to pop into an equation. When they really perceive the issue they’re more likely to get the suitable reply!


***Don’t miss the problem-solving tab e-book and chart. Click HERE!***


***If you’re prepared to dive into drawback sorts along with your class, save your self time with no-prep follow pages. FIND OUT MORE


teach word or story problems using the 12 problem types, a helpful math schema for first, second, and third grade teachers to teach