20 Word Problems For 2nd Grade: Develop Their Problem Solving Skills Across Single and Mixed Topics

Word problems for second grade are an important tool for improving number fluency. The key focus of math in second grade is on ensuring students are becoming more fluent with number facts and the concept of place value. Children are starting to develop more efficient written methods by this stage and are beginning to carry out calculations with increasingly larger whole numbers.

As children progress through school, they are exposed to a wider variety of problem solving questions covering a range of concepts. In second grade, these include addition, subtraction, measurement and data.  

It is important that children are regularly exposed to reasoning and problem solving questions, alongside the fluency work each lesson. It is also important to remember that all children need exposure to reasoning and problem solving questions, not just the higher attaining students who finish quickest.

We have put together a collection of 20 word problems, aimed at second grade students.

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Second Grade Math Word Problems

In second grade, students focus on one-step problems, covering a range of topics. At this stage the majority of word problems students are tackling will have one-step, but they may also start to be introduced to simple two-step word problems. Here is a breakdown of topics that will be covered and expectations in second grade. 

Place value

Solve number problems and practical problems involving recognizing the place value of each digit of a 3-digit number; comparing and ordering numbers up to 1,000 and identifying, representing and estimating numbers using different representations.

Addition and subtraction

Solve problems, including missing number problems, using number facts, place value and more complex addition and subtraction word problems.


Solve problems involving length; adding and subtracting within money word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies.

Data representation

Solve-step and two-step questions (For example, ‘How many more?’ and ‘How many fewer’?) using information presented in scaled bar charts, pictograms and tables.

Why are word problems important in second grade math?

By second grade, children are starting to learn how to use some of the formal written methods of addition and subtraction. It is important that the link between math in school and math in real-life continues to be made. Word problems are a key element in helping students to make this link. 

How to teach problem solving in second grade

When teaching math problems to second grade, it’s important to think of ways to make them fun, engaging and something the children are able to relate to. This might include acting out the problem, using concrete resources and providing visual images, to bring the problems to life. 

Benefits of pairs, groups and class discussion 

Children should have plenty of opportunity to talk in pairs, groups and as a whole class, to share their understanding of what is being asked and their math strategies for problem solving. The use of manipulatives is important and all children should have access to a range of math resources when solving problems like this.

Students need to be encouraged to read word problems carefully and to make sure they understand what is being asked, before attempting to tackle the problem. This is where the use of a partner and group discussion can really help children’s understanding. Students then need to think about what they already know and how they can use this to help them answer the question. Where appropriate, students should also be encouraged to draw diagrams and pictures to help them solve the question.

Here is an example:

Mason has 24 glass jars to put flowers in.

He gives 5 to Marcy and drops 2 while carrying them inside the shop.

How many glass jars does Mason have left?

How to solve:

What do you already know?

  • Mason has a total of 24 glass jars.
  • We know he gives Marcy 5 jars, which means we will need to subtract 5 from 4. 
  • He also dropped 2, also meaning we will need to subtract.
  • In second grade, children should be building confidence with adding and subtracting within 20, and should be able to do these calculations in their heads.
  • Children who aren’t able to recall quickly could use counters to represent the jars, or draw a bar model to help solve it.

How can this be drawn/represented visually?

We can draw a bar model or counters to represent this problem:

visual representation of question regarding jars
  • To calculate how many jars are left, we can either use or draw 24 counters. We can then remove or cross out the 5 jars given to Marcy, and then 2 jars that were broken.
  • Using the bar model, we can first subtract 5 from 24, representing the jars given to Marcy, leaving 19 jars. Then subtract 2 more from 19, to represent the two jars broken.
  • Mason had 17 glass jars left. 

Addition word problems for second grade

In second grade, students are exposed to a range of addition word problems, including problems involving mental addition and addition of up to 3-digits using formal written methods.

See also: Mental math second grade

Addition question 1

A family driving on holiday travel 146 miles from home to the first service station.

They then drive a further 175 miles to reach their destination.

How far have they traveled altogether?

Answer : 321 miles

146 + 175 = 321

Addition question 2

Elvie is buying a can of soda from a vending machine. She has put in 2 quarters, 2 dimes, and 3 nickels. 

How much is the can of soda?

Answer : 85¢

50¢ + 20¢ + 15¢ = 85¢

Addition question 3

Jamie scored 443 on his new online game.

Jared scored 468.

How many points did they score between them?

Answer : 911 points

443 + 468 = 911

At Third Space Learning we often tie word problems into our one-to-one online tuition. With each programme personalized to the needs of each individual student, children are able to develop their problem solving skills, math fluency and grow confidence in math.

lesson slide showing word problems
Example of word problems from a Third Space Learning online tutoring lesson.

Subtraction word problems for second grade

Subtraction word problems in second grade also need to comprise of a combination of mental calculation questions and those involving formal written subtraction up to 3-digits. Children should also be starting to estimate answers and check their calculations by using the inverse.

Subtraction question 1

Ahmed collects 374 stickers.

He needs 526 stickers to fill his sticker album.

How many more stickers does he need to collect?

Answer : 152 stickers

526 – 374 = 152

Subtraction question 2

 A bag of carrots weigh 360g

A bag of tomatoes weighs 235g.

How much heavier is the bag of carrots?

Answer : 125g

360 – 235 = 125

Subtraction question 3

 Ahmed buys a bag of candy with 200 pieces in it.

Over 2 weeks, he eats 145 pieces.
How many pieces of candy does Ahmed have left?

Answer : 55 pieces of candy

200 – 145 or count up from 145 to 200.

Multi-step word problems in second grade

When children first move into elementary school, word problems are predominantly one-step. As they become more confident they can be exposed to more word problems, requiring a second step or multi-step word problems. When first introducing two-step problems, keep the numbers used in the problems low and manageable to allow students to focus on reasoning over calculations.

Multi-step question 1

Oliver had 3 bags of candies.

Each bag contained 15 candies.

Oliver’s little brother ate 17 pieces of the candy. How many pieces of candy does Oliver have left?

Answer : 9 sweets

15 + 15 + 15 = 45 

45  – 17 = 28

Multi-step question 2

A teacher photocopies 95 math worksheets and 80 English worksheets in one week.

Teachers can print a maximum of 300 worksheets per week. 

How many can the teacher print for other subjects?

Answer : 125 worksheets

 95 + 80 = 175

300 – 175 = 125

Multi-step question 3

A flower shop picks 19 roses and 25 daisies fresh from their garden.

A customer orders a dozen flowers for a birthday gift.

How many flowers will the flower shop have left?

Answer : 32 flowers

19 + 25 = 44 flowers (roses and daisies combined)

44 – 12 = 32 flowers

More word problems resources

We hope that this collection of word problems for second grade becomes a useful resource in your second grade math classroom. 

For more resources, take a look at our library. Third Space Learning offers a wide array of math and word problems resources for other grades. These include worksheets, end of year assessments and a range of math games and activities for students from kindergarten through to 6th grade. 

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The content in this article was originally written by former Deputy Headteacher Emma Johnson and has since been revised and adapted for US schools by elementary math teacher Christi Kulesza.


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