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# Word Problems Explained For Elementary School Teachers & Parents

Solving word problems in elementary school is an essential part of the math curriculum. Here are over 30 math word problems to practice with children, plus expert guidance on how to solve them.

This blog is part of our series of blogs designed for teachers, schools, and parents supporting home learning.

### What is a word problem?

A word problem in math is a math question written as one sentence or more that requires children to apply their math knowledge to a ‘real-life’ scenario.

This means that children must be familiar with the vocabulary associated with the mathematical symbols they are used to, in order to make sense of the word problem.

For example: Word Problems Grade 4 Number and Base 10

11 grade 4 number and base 10 questions to develop your students' reasoning and problem solving skills. Download Free Now!

### Isn’t brilliant arithmetic enough?

In short, no. Students need to build good reading comprehension, even in math. Overtime math problems become increasingly complex and require students to possess deep conceptual understanding and the ability to recall and apply knowledge rapidly and accurately.

As students progress through their mathematical education, they will need to be able to apply mathematical reasoning and develop mathematical arguments and proofs using math language. They will also need to be dynamic, applying their math knowledge to a variety of increasingly sophisticated problems.

#### To support this schools are adopting a ‘mastery’ approach to math

“Teaching for mastery”, is defined with these components:

• Math teaching for mastery rejects the idea that a large proportion of people ‘just can’t do math’.
• All students are encouraged by the belief that by working hard at math they can succeed.
• Procedural fluency and conceptual understanding are developed in tandem because each supports the development of the other.
• Significant time is spent developing deep knowledge of the key ideas that are needed to support future learning. The structure and connections within the mathematics are emphasized, so that students develop deep learning that can be sustained.

(The Essence of Maths Teaching for Mastery, 2016)

### Mastery helps children to explore math in greater depth

Fluency in arithmetic is important; however, with this often lies the common misconception that once a child has learned the number skills appropriate to their grade level/age, they should be progressed to the next grade level/age of number skills.

The mastery approach encourages exploring the breadth and depth of these math concepts (once fluency is secure) through reasoning and problem solving.

### How to teach children to solve word problems?

Here are two simple strategies that can be applied to many word problems before solving them.

1. What do you already know?
2. How can this problem be drawn/represented pictorially?

Let’s see how this can be applied to word problems to help achieve the answer.

#### Solving a simple word problem

There are 28 students in a class.

The teacher has 8 liters of orange juice.

She pours 225 milliliters of orange juice for every student.

How much orange juice is left over?

1. What do you already know?

• There are 1,000ml in 1 liter
• Pours = liquid leaving the bottle = subtraction
• For every = multiply
• Left over = requires subtraction at some point

2. How can this problem be drawn/represented pictorially?

The bar model, also known as strip diagram, is always a great way of representing problems. However, if you are not familiar with this, there are always other ways of drawing it out.

Read more: What is a bar model

For example, for this question, you could draw 28 students (or stick man x 28) with ‘225 ml’ above each one and then a half-empty bottle with ‘8 liters’ marked at the top.

Now to put the math to work. This is a 5th grade multi-step problem, so we need to use what we already know and what we’ve drawn to break down the steps.

#### Solving a more complex, mixed word problem

Mara is in a bookshop.

She buys one book for $6.99 and another that costs$3.40 more than the first book.

She pays using a $20 bill. What change does Mara get? (What is the remainder?) 1. What do you already know? • More than = add • Using decimals means I will have to line up the decimal points correctly in calculations • Change from money = subtract 2. How can this problem be drawn/represented pictorially? See this example of bar modelling for this question: Now to put the math to work using what we already know and what we’ve drawn to break down the steps. Mara is in a bookshop. She buys one book for$6.99 and another that costs $3.40 more than the first book. 1)$6.99 + ($6.99 +$3.40) = $17.38 She pays using a$20 bill.

#### 3rd grade word problem: area

A rectangle measures 6cm by 5cm.

What is its area? Answer: 30cm2

#### 3rd grade word problem: perimeter

The swimming pool at the Sunshine Inn hotel is 20m long and 7m wide. Mary swims around the edge of the pool twice. How many meters has she swum? Answer: 108m

#### 5th grade word problem: ratio (crossover with measurement)

A local council has spent the day painting double yellow lines. They use 1 pot of yellow paint for every 100m of road they paint. How many pots of paint will they need to paint a 2km stretch of road? Answer: 20 pots

#### 5th grade word problem: PEMDAS

Draw a pair of parentheses in one of these calculations so that they make two different answers. What are the answers?

50 – 10 × 5 =

50 – 10 × 5 =

#### 5th grade word problem: volume

This large cuboid has been made by stacking shipping containers on a boat. Each individual shipping container has a length of 6m, a width of 4m and a height of 3m. What is the volume of the large cuboid? Answer: 864m3

### Remember: The word problems can change but the math won’t

It can be easy for children to get overwhelmed when they first come across word problems, but it is important that you remind them that while the context of the problem may be presented in a different way, the math behind it remains the same.

Word problems are a good way to bring math into the real world and make math more relevant for your child. So help them practice, or even ask them to turn the tables and make up some word problems for you to solve.

Do you have students who need extra support in math?
Give your students more opportunities to consolidate learning and practice skills through personalized math tutoring with their own dedicated online math tutor.

Each student receives differentiated instruction designed to close their individual learning gaps, and scaffolded learning ensures every student learns at the right pace. Lessons are aligned with your state’s standards and assessments, plus you’ll receive regular reports every step of the way.

Personalized one-on-one math tutoring programs are available for: ##### Sophie Bartlett
Year 6 Teacher
Sophie teaches mixed age classes at a small school in central England. She is a self confessed grammar pedant and number nerd so we've welcomed her as a regular author and editor for Third Space Learning.
x #### Word Problems Grade 4 Number and Base 10

11 grade 4 number and base 10 questions to develop your students' reasoning and problem solving skills.

#### Word Problems Grade 4 Number and Base 10 11 grade 4 number and base 10 questions to develop your students' reasoning and problem solving skills.