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120 Math Word Problems To Challenge Students Grades 1 to 8

elementary math problem solving examples

Engage and motivate your students with our adaptive, game-based learning platform!

You sit at your desk, ready to put a math quiz, test or activity together. The questions flow onto the document until you hit a section for word problems.

A jolt of creativity would help. But it doesn’t come.

Whether you’re a 3rd grade teacher or an 8th grade teacher preparing students for high school, translating math concepts into real world examples can certainly be a challenge.

This resource is your jolt of creativity. It provides examples and templates of math word problems for 1st to 8th grade classes.

There are 120 examples in total.

The list of examples is supplemented by tips to create engaging and challenging math word problems.

120 Math word problems, categorized by skill

Addition word problems.

A teacher is teaching three students with a whiteboard happily.

Best for: 1st grade, 2nd grade

1. Adding to 10: Ariel was playing basketball. 1 of her shots went in the hoop. 2 of her shots did not go in the hoop. How many shots were there in total?

2. Adding to 20: Adrianna has 10 pieces of gum to share with her friends. There wasn’t enough gum for all her friends, so she went to the store to get 3 more pieces of gum. How many pieces of gum does Adrianna have now?

3. Adding to 100: Adrianna has 10 pieces of gum to share with her friends. There wasn’t enough gum for all her friends, so she went to the store and got 70 pieces of strawberry gum and 10 pieces of bubble gum. How many pieces of gum does Adrianna have now?

4. Adding Slightly over 100: The restaurant has 175 normal chairs and 20 chairs for babies. How many chairs does the restaurant have in total?

5. Adding to 1,000: How many cookies did you sell if you sold 320 chocolate cookies and 270 vanilla cookies?

6. Adding to and over 10,000: The hobby store normally sells 10,576 trading cards per month. In June, the hobby store sold 15,498 more trading cards than normal. In total, how many trading cards did the hobby store sell in June?

7. Adding 3 Numbers: Billy had 2 books at home. He went to the library to take out 2 more books. He then bought 1 book. How many books does Billy have now?

8. Adding 3 Numbers to and over 100: Ashley bought a big bag of candy. The bag had 102 blue candies, 100 red candies and 94 green candies. How many candies were there in total?

Subtraction word problems

Best for: 1st grade, second grade

9. Subtracting to 10: There were 3 pizzas in total at the pizza shop. A customer bought 1 pizza. How many pizzas are left?

10. Subtracting to 20: Your friend said she had 11 stickers. When you helped her clean her desk, she only had a total of 10 stickers. How many stickers are missing?

11. Subtracting to 100: Adrianna has 100 pieces of gum to share with her friends. When she went to the park, she shared 10 pieces of strawberry gum. When she left the park, Adrianna shared another 10 pieces of bubble gum. How many pieces of gum does Adrianna have now?

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Practice math word problems with Prodigy Math

Join millions of teachers using Prodigy to make learning fun and differentiate instruction as they answer in-game questions, including math word problems from 1st to 8th grade!

12. Subtracting Slightly over 100: Your team scored a total of 123 points. 67 points were scored in the first half. How many were scored in the second half?

13. Subtracting to 1,000: Nathan has a big ant farm. He decided to sell some of his ants. He started with 965 ants. He sold 213. How many ants does he have now?

14. Subtracting to and over 10,000: The hobby store normally sells 10,576 trading cards per month. In July, the hobby store sold a total of 20,777 trading cards. How many more trading cards did the hobby store sell in July compared with a normal month?

15. Subtracting 3 Numbers: Charlene had a pack of 35 pencil crayons. She gave 6 to her friend Theresa. She gave 3 to her friend Mandy. How many pencil crayons does Charlene have left?

16. Subtracting 3 Numbers to and over 100: Ashley bought a big bag of candy to share with her friends. In total, there were 296 candies. She gave 105 candies to Marissa. She also gave 86 candies to Kayla. How many candies were left?

Multiplication word problems

A hand holding a pen is doing calculation on a pice of papper

Best for: 2nd grade, 3rd grade

17. Multiplying 1-Digit Integers: Adrianna needs to cut a pan of brownies into pieces. She cuts 6 even columns and 3 even rows into the pan. How many brownies does she have?

18. Multiplying 2-Digit Integers: A movie theatre has 25 rows of seats with 20 seats in each row. How many seats are there in total?

19. Multiplying Integers Ending with 0: A clothing company has 4 different kinds of sweatshirts. Each year, the company makes 60,000 of each kind of sweatshirt. How many sweatshirts does the company make each year?

20. Multiplying 3 Integers: A bricklayer stacks bricks in 2 rows, with 10 bricks in each row. On top of each row, there is a stack of 6 bricks. How many bricks are there in total?

21. Multiplying 4 Integers: Cayley earns $5 an hour by delivering newspapers. She delivers newspapers 3 days each week, for 4 hours at a time. After delivering newspapers for 8 weeks, how much money will Cayley earn?

Division word problems

Best for: 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade

22. Dividing 1-Digit Integers: If you have 4 pieces of candy split evenly into 2 bags, how many pieces of candy are in each bag?

23. Dividing 2-Digit Integers: If you have 80 tickets for the fair and each ride costs 5 tickets, how many rides can you go on?

24. Dividing Numbers Ending with 0: The school has $20,000 to buy new computer equipment. If each piece of equipment costs $50, how many pieces can the school buy in total?

25. Dividing 3 Integers: Melissa buys 2 packs of tennis balls for $12 in total. All together, there are 6 tennis balls. How much does 1 pack of tennis balls cost? How much does 1 tennis ball cost?

26. Interpreting Remainders: An Italian restaurant receives a shipment of 86 veal cutlets. If it takes 3 cutlets to make a dish, how many cutlets will the restaurant have left over after making as many dishes as possible?

Mixed operations word problems

A female teacher is instructing student math on a blackboard

27. Mixing Addition and Subtraction: There are 235 books in a library. On Monday, 123 books are taken out. On Tuesday, 56 books are brought back. How many books are there now?

28. Mixing Multiplication and Division: There is a group of 10 people who are ordering pizza. If each person gets 2 slices and each pizza has 4 slices, how many pizzas should they order?

29. Mixing Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction: Lana has 2 bags with 2 marbles in each bag. Markus has 2 bags with 3 marbles in each bag. How many more marbles does Markus have?

30. Mixing Division, Addition and Subtraction: Lana has 3 bags with the same amount of marbles in them, totaling 12 marbles. Markus has 3 bags with the same amount of marbles in them, totaling 18 marbles. How many more marbles does Markus have in each bag?

Ordering and number sense word problems

31. Counting to Preview Multiplication: There are 2 chalkboards in your classroom. If each chalkboard needs 2 pieces of chalk, how many pieces do you need in total?

32. Counting to Preview Division: There are 3 chalkboards in your classroom. Each chalkboard has 2 pieces of chalk. This means there are 6 pieces of chalk in total. If you take 1 piece of chalk away from each chalkboard, how many will there be in total?

33. Composing Numbers: What number is 6 tens and 10 ones?

34. Guessing Numbers: I have a 7 in the tens place. I have an even number in the ones place. I am lower than 74. What number am I?

35. Finding the Order: In the hockey game, Mitchell scored more points than William but fewer points than Auston. Who scored the most points? Who scored the fewest points?

Fractions word problems

A student is drawing on a notebook, holding a pencil.

Best for: 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade

36. Finding Fractions of a Group: Julia went to 10 houses on her street for Halloween. 5 of the houses gave her a chocolate bar. What fraction of houses on Julia’s street gave her a chocolate bar?

37. Finding Unit Fractions: Heather is painting a portrait of her best friend, Lisa. To make it easier, she divides the portrait into 6 equal parts. What fraction represents each part of the portrait?

38. Adding Fractions with Like Denominators: Noah walks ⅓ of a kilometre to school each day. He also walks ⅓ of a kilometre to get home after school. How many kilometres does he walk in total?

39. Subtracting Fractions with Like Denominators: Last week, Whitney counted the number of juice boxes she had for school lunches. She had ⅗ of a case. This week, it’s down to ⅕ of a case. How much of the case did Whitney drink?

40. Adding Whole Numbers and Fractions with Like Denominators: At lunchtime, an ice cream parlor served 6 ¼ scoops of chocolate ice cream, 5 ¾ scoops of vanilla and 2 ¾ scoops of strawberry. How many scoops of ice cream did the parlor serve in total?

41. Subtracting Whole Numbers and Fractions with Like Denominators: For a party, Jaime had 5 ⅓ bottles of cola for her friends to drink. She drank ⅓ of a bottle herself. Her friends drank 3 ⅓. How many bottles of cola does Jaime have left?

42. Adding Fractions with Unlike Denominators: Kevin completed ½ of an assignment at school. When he was home that evening, he completed ⅚ of another assignment. How many assignments did Kevin complete?

43. Subtracting Fractions with Unlike Denominators: Packing school lunches for her kids, Patty used ⅞ of a package of ham. She also used ½ of a package of turkey. How much more ham than turkey did Patty use?

44. Multiplying Fractions: During gym class on Wednesday, the students ran for ¼ of a kilometre. On Thursday, they ran ½ as many kilometres as on Wednesday. How many kilometres did the students run on Thursday? Write your answer as a fraction.

45. Dividing Fractions: A clothing manufacturer uses ⅕ of a bottle of colour dye to make one pair of pants. The manufacturer used ⅘ of a bottle yesterday. How many pairs of pants did the manufacturer make?

46. Multiplying Fractions with Whole Numbers: Mark drank ⅚ of a carton of milk this week. Frank drank 7 times more milk than Mark. How many cartons of milk did Frank drink? Write your answer as a fraction, or as a whole or mixed number.

Decimals word problems

Best for: 4th grade, 5th grade

47. Adding Decimals: You have 2.6 grams of yogurt in your bowl and you add another spoonful of 1.3 grams. How much yogurt do you have in total?

48. Subtracting Decimals: Gemma had 25.75 grams of frosting to make a cake. She decided to use only 15.5 grams of the frosting. How much frosting does Gemma have left?

49. Multiplying Decimals with Whole Numbers: Marshall walks a total of 0.9 kilometres to and from school each day. After 4 days, how many kilometres will he have walked?

50. Dividing Decimals by Whole Numbers: To make the Leaning Tower of Pisa from spaghetti, Mrs. Robinson bought 2.5 kilograms of spaghetti. Her students were able to make 10 leaning towers in total. How many kilograms of spaghetti does it take to make 1 leaning tower?

51. Mixing Addition and Subtraction of Decimals: Rocco has 1.5 litres of orange soda and 2.25 litres of grape soda in his fridge. Antonio has 1.15 litres of orange soda and 0.62 litres of grape soda. How much more soda does Rocco have than Angelo?

52. Mixing Multiplication and Division of Decimals: 4 days a week, Laura practices martial arts for 1.5 hours. Considering a week is 7 days, what is her average practice time per day each week?

Comparing and sequencing word problems

Four students are sitting together and discussing math questions

Best for: Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade

53. Comparing 1-Digit Integers: You have 3 apples and your friend has 5 apples. Who has more?

54. Comparing 2-Digit Integers: You have 50 candies and your friend has 75 candies. Who has more?

55. Comparing Different Variables: There are 5 basketballs on the playground. There are 7 footballs on the playground. Are there more basketballs or footballs?

56. Sequencing 1-Digit Integers: Erik has 0 stickers. Every day he gets 1 more sticker. How many days until he gets 3 stickers?

57. Skip-Counting by Odd Numbers: Natalie began at 5. She skip-counted by fives. Could she have said the number 20?

58. Skip-Counting by Even Numbers: Natasha began at 0. She skip-counted by eights. Could she have said the number 36?

59. Sequencing 2-Digit Numbers: Each month, Jeremy adds the same number of cards to his baseball card collection. In January, he had 36. 48 in February. 60 in March. How many baseball cards will Jeremy have in April?

Time word problems

66. Converting Hours into Minutes: Jeremy helped his mom for 1 hour. For how many minutes was he helping her?

69. Adding Time: If you wake up at 7:00 a.m. and it takes you 1 hour and 30 minutes to get ready and walk to school, at what time will you get to school?

70. Subtracting Time: If a train departs at 2:00 p.m. and arrives at 4:00 p.m., how long were passengers on the train for?

71. Finding Start and End Times: Rebecca left her dad’s store to go home at twenty to seven in the evening. Forty minutes later, she was home. What time was it when she arrived home?

Money word problems

Best for: 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade

60. Adding Money: Thomas and Matthew are saving up money to buy a video game together. Thomas has saved $30. Matthew has saved $35. How much money have they saved up together in total?

61. Subtracting Money: Thomas has $80 saved up. He uses his money to buy a video game. The video game costs $67. How much money does he have left?

62. Multiplying Money: Tim gets $5 for delivering the paper. How much money will he have after delivering the paper 3 times?

63. Dividing Money: Robert spent $184.59 to buy 3 hockey sticks. If each hockey stick was the same price, how much did 1 cost?

64. Adding Money with Decimals: You went to the store and bought gum for $1.25 and a sucker for $0.50. How much was your total?

65. Subtracting Money with Decimals: You went to the store with $5.50. You bought gum for $1.25, a chocolate bar for $1.15 and a sucker for $0.50. How much money do you have left?

67. Applying Proportional Relationships to Money: Jakob wants to invite 20 friends to his birthday, which will cost his parents $250. If he decides to invite 15 friends instead, how much money will it cost his parents? Assume the relationship is directly proportional.

68. Applying Percentages to Money: Retta put $100.00 in a bank account that gains 20% interest annually. How much interest will be accumulated in 1 year? And if she makes no withdrawals, how much money will be in the account after 1 year?

Physical measurement word problems

A girl is doing math practice

Best for: 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade

72. Comparing Measurements: Cassandra’s ruler is 22 centimetres long. April’s ruler is 30 centimetres long. How many centimetres longer is April’s ruler?

73. Contextualizing Measurements: Picture a school bus. Which unit of measurement would best describe the length of the bus? Centimetres, metres or kilometres?

74. Adding Measurements: Micha’s dad wants to try to save money on gas, so he has been tracking how much he uses. Last year, Micha’s dad used 100 litres of gas. This year, her dad used 90 litres of gas. How much gas did he use in total for the two years?

75. Subtracting Measurements: Micha’s dad wants to try to save money on gas, so he has been tracking how much he uses. Over the past two years, Micha’s dad used 200 litres of gas. This year, he used 100 litres of gas. How much gas did he use last year?

A tablet showing an example of Prodigy Math's battle gameplay.

76. Multiplying Volume and Mass: Kiera wants to make sure she has strong bones, so she drinks 2 litres of milk every week. After 3 weeks, how many litres of milk will Kiera drink?

77. Dividing Volume and Mass: Lillian is doing some gardening, so she bought 1 kilogram of soil. She wants to spread the soil evenly between her 2 plants. How much will each plant get?

78. Converting Mass: Inger goes to the grocery store and buys 3 squashes that each weigh 500 grams. How many kilograms of squash did Inger buy?

79. Converting Volume: Shad has a lemonade stand and sold 20 cups of lemonade. Each cup was 500 millilitres. How many litres did Shad sell in total?

80. Converting Length: Stacy and Milda are comparing their heights. Stacy is 1.5 meters tall. Milda is 10 centimetres taller than Stacy. What is Milda’s height in centimetres?

81. Understanding Distance and Direction: A bus leaves the school to take students on a field trip. The bus travels 10 kilometres south, 10 kilometres west, another 5 kilometres south and 15 kilometres north. To return to the school, in which direction does the bus have to travel? How many kilometres must it travel in that direction?

Ratios and percentages word problems

Best for: 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade

82. Finding a Missing Number: The ratio of Jenny’s trophies to Meredith’s trophies is 7:4. Jenny has 28 trophies. How many does Meredith have?

83. Finding Missing Numbers: The ratio of Jenny’s trophies to Meredith’s trophies is 7:4. The difference between the numbers is 12. What are the numbers?

84. Comparing Ratios: The school’s junior band has 10 saxophone players and 20 trumpet players. The school’s senior band has 18 saxophone players and 29 trumpet players. Which band has the higher ratio of trumpet to saxophone players?

85. Determining Percentages: Mary surveyed students in her school to find out what their favourite sports were. Out of 1,200 students, 455 said hockey was their favourite sport. What percentage of students said hockey was their favourite sport?

86. Determining Percent of Change: A decade ago, Oakville’s population was 67,624 people. Now, it is 190% larger. What is Oakville’s current population?

87. Determining Percents of Numbers: At the ice skate rental stand, 60% of 120 skates are for boys. If the rest of the skates are for girls, how many are there?

88. Calculating Averages: For 4 weeks, William volunteered as a helper for swimming classes. The first week, he volunteered for 8 hours. He volunteered for 12 hours in the second week, and another 12 hours in the third week. The fourth week, he volunteered for 9 hours. For how many hours did he volunteer per week, on average?

Probability and data relationships word problems

Two students are calculating on a whiteboard

Best for: 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade

89. Understanding the Premise of Probability: John wants to know his class’s favourite TV show, so he surveys all of the boys. Will the sample be representative or biased?

90. Understanding Tangible Probability: The faces on a fair number die are labelled 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. You roll the die 12 times. How many times should you expect to roll a 1?

91. Exploring Complementary Events: The numbers 1 to 50 are in a hat. If the probability of drawing an even number is 25/50, what is the probability of NOT drawing an even number? Express this probability as a fraction.

92. Exploring Experimental Probability: A pizza shop has recently sold 15 pizzas. 5 of those pizzas were pepperoni. Answering with a fraction, what is the experimental probability that he next pizza will be pepperoni?

93. Introducing Data Relationships: Maurita and Felice each take 4 tests. Here are the results of Maurita’s 4 tests: 4, 4, 4, 4. Here are the results for 3 of Felice’s 4 tests: 3, 3, 3. If Maurita’s mean for the 4 tests is 1 point higher than Felice’s, what’s the score of Felice’s 4th test?

94. Introducing Proportional Relationships: Store A is selling 7 pounds of bananas for $7.00. Store B is selling 3 pounds of bananas for $6.00. Which store has the better deal?

95. Writing Equations for Proportional Relationships: Lionel loves soccer, but has trouble motivating himself to practice. So, he incentivizes himself through video games. There is a proportional relationship between the amount of drills Lionel completes, in x , and for how many hours he plays video games, in y . When Lionel completes 10 drills, he plays video games for 30 minutes. Write the equation for the relationship between x and y .

Geometry word problems

Best for: 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade

96. Introducing Perimeter:  The theatre has 4 chairs in a row. There are 5 rows. Using rows as your unit of measurement, what is the perimeter?

97. Introducing Area: The theatre has 4 chairs in a row. There are 5 rows. How many chairs are there in total?

98. Introducing Volume: Aaron wants to know how much candy his container can hold. The container is 20 centimetres tall, 10 centimetres long and 10 centimetres wide. What is the container’s volume?

99. Understanding 2D Shapes: Kevin draws a shape with 4 equal sides. What shape did he draw?

100. Finding the Perimeter of 2D Shapes: Mitchell wrote his homework questions on a piece of square paper. Each side of the paper is 8 centimetres. What is the perimeter?

101. Determining the Area of 2D Shapes: A single trading card is 9 centimetres long by 6 centimetres wide. What is its area?

102. Understanding 3D Shapes: Martha draws a shape that has 6 square faces. What shape did she draw?

103. Determining the Surface Area of 3D Shapes: What is the surface area of a cube that has a width of 2cm, height of 2 cm and length of 2 cm?

104. Determining the Volume of 3D Shapes: Aaron’s candy container is 20 centimetres tall, 10 centimetres long and 10 centimetres wide. Bruce’s container is 25 centimetres tall, 9 centimetres long and 9 centimetres wide. Find the volume of each container. Based on volume, whose container can hold more candy?

105. Identifying Right-Angled Triangles: A triangle has the following side lengths: 3 cm, 4 cm and 5 cm. Is this triangle a right-angled triangle?

106. Identifying Equilateral Triangles: A triangle has the following side lengths: 4 cm, 4 cm and 4 cm. What kind of triangle is it?

107. Identifying Isosceles Triangles: A triangle has the following side lengths: 4 cm, 5 cm and 5 cm. What kind of triangle is it?

108. Identifying Scalene Triangles: A triangle has the following side lengths: 4 cm, 5 cm and 6 cm. What kind of triangle is it?

109. Finding the Perimeter of Triangles: Luigi built a tent in the shape of an equilateral triangle. The perimeter is 21 metres. What is the length of each of the tent’s sides?

110. Determining the Area of Triangles: What is the area of a triangle with a base of 2 units and a height of 3 units?

111. Applying Pythagorean Theorem: A right triangle has one non-hypotenuse side length of 3 inches and the hypotenuse measures 5 inches. What is the length of the other non-hypotenuse side?

112. Finding a Circle’s Diameter: Jasmin bought a new round backpack. Its area is 370 square centimetres. What is the round backpack’s diameter?

113. Finding a Circle's Area: Captain America’s circular shield has a diameter of 76.2 centimetres. What is the area of his shield?

114. Finding a Circle’s Radius: Skylar lives on a farm, where his dad keeps a circular corn maze. The corn maze has a diameter of 2 kilometres. What is the maze’s radius?

Variables word problems

A hand is calculating math problem on a blacboard

Best for: 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade

115. Identifying Independent and Dependent Variables: Victoria is baking muffins for her class. The number of muffins she makes is based on how many classmates she has. For this equation, m is the number of muffins and c is the number of classmates. Which variable is independent and which variable is dependent?

116. Writing Variable Expressions for Addition: Last soccer season, Trish scored g goals. Alexa scored 4 more goals than Trish. Write an expression that shows how many goals Alexa scored.

117. Writing Variable Expressions for Subtraction: Elizabeth eats a healthy, balanced breakfast b times a week. Madison sometimes skips breakfast. In total, Madison eats 3 fewer breakfasts a week than Elizabeth. Write an expression that shows how many times a week Madison eats breakfast.

118. Writing Variable Expressions for Multiplication: Last hockey season, Jack scored g goals. Patrik scored twice as many goals than Jack. Write an expression that shows how many goals Patrik scored.

119. Writing Variable Expressions for Division: Amanda has c chocolate bars. She wants to distribute the chocolate bars evenly among 3 friends. Write an expression that shows how many chocolate bars 1 of her friends will receive.

120. Solving Two-Variable Equations: This equation shows how the amount Lucas earns from his after-school job depends on how many hours he works: e = 12h . The variable h represents how many hours he works. The variable e represents how much money he earns. How much money will Lucas earn after working for 6 hours?

How to easily make your own math word problems & word problems worksheets

Two teachers are discussing math with a pen and a notebook

Armed with 120 examples to spark ideas, making your own math word problems can engage your students and ensure alignment with lessons. Do:

A key to differentiated instruction , word problems that students can relate to and contextualize will capture interest more than generic and abstract ones.

Final thoughts about math word problems

You’ll likely get the most out of this resource by using the problems as templates, slightly modifying them by applying the above tips. In doing so, they’ll be more relevant to -- and engaging for -- your students.

Regardless, having 120 curriculum-aligned math word problems at your fingertips should help you deliver skill-building challenges and thought-provoking assessments.

The result?

A greater understanding of how your students process content and demonstrate understanding, informing your ongoing teaching approach.


Examples for

Mathematical Word Problems

Math word problems is one of the most complex parts of the elementary math curriculum since translating text into symbolic math is required to solve the problem. Because the Wolfram Language has powerful symbolic computation ability, Wolfram|Alpha can interpret basic mathematical word problems and give descriptive results.

Word Problems

Solve a word problem and explore related facts.

Solve a word problem:

Related examples.

elementary math problem solving examples

K-5 Math Centers

K-5 math ideas, 3rd grade math, need help organizing your k-5 math block, math problem solving 101.

images of Mr Elementary Math problem solving strategies

Have you ever given your students a money word problem where someone buys an item from a store, but your students come up with an answer where the person that bought the item ends up with more money than he or she came in with?

Word problem solving is one of those things that many of our children struggle with.  When used effectively, questioning and dramatization can be powerful tools for our students to use when solving these types of problems.

I came up with this approach after co-teaching a lesson with a 3rd grade teachers.  Her kids were having extreme difficulty comprehending a word problem she presented.  So we devised a lesson that would help students better understand problem solving.

The approach we took included the use of several literacy skills, like reading comprehension and writing. First, we started the lesson with a “think aloud” modeled by the teacher.We read and displayed the problem below but excluded ALL of the numbers. See the images below:

elementary math problem solving examples

The purpose of reading the problem without the numbers is to get the students to understand what is actually happening in the problem.  Typically some students focus solely on keywords when solving word problems, but I do not advise using this approach exclusively.  With math problems, the context of the problem and actions in the problem determine how the child should go about solving it.

Read the Problem Without Numbers & Ask Questions:

After reading the problem (without numbers) to the students, I asked the following questions:

Make a Plan & Ask Questions:

After the students articulated what was happening in the problem, we made a plan to solve the problem.  I used the following guiding questions:

The class discussed the answers to the questions above. As we discussed the questions above the responses were written out on a problem solving template.

elementary math problem solving examples

As part of this process, we clarified student understanding of the problem and determined what we needed to find and do to solve the problem.  Next, we walked the students through the process of showing their work using pictures.  Lastly, we checked our answers by writing an equation that matched the pictures to finally solve the problem.

Team Work Counts

After going through the process with the class, we decided to split the students into small groups of 3 and 4 to solve a math problem together.  The groups were expected to use the same process that we used to solve the problem.  It took a while but check out one of the final products below.

images of Mr Elementary Math problem solving strategies

Benefits to Using this Process:

Things to Consider Include:

Be sure to let me know how this process works in your classroom in the comments below.

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Math Problem Solving Strategies

In these lessons, we will learn some math problem solving strategies for example, Verbal Model (or Logical Reasoning), Algebraic Model, Block Model (or Singapore Math), Guess & Check Model and Find a Pattern Model.

Related Pages Solving Word Problems Using Block Models Heuristic Approach to Problem-Solving Algebra Lessons

Problem Solving Strategies

The strategies used in solving word problems:

Solution Strategies Label Variables Verbal Model or Logical Reasoning Algebraic Model - Translate Verbal Model to Algebraic Model Solve and Check.

Solving Word Problems

Step 1: Identify (What is being asked?) Step 2: Strategize Step 3: Write the equation(s) Step 4: Answer the question Step 5: Check

Problem Solving Strategy: Guess And Check

Using the guess and check problem solving strategy to help solve math word problems.

Example: Jamie spent $40 for an outfit. She paid for the items using $10, $5 and $1 bills. If she gave the clerk 10 bills in all, how many of each bill did she use?

Problem Solving : Make A Table And Look For A Pattern

Example: Marcus ran a lemonade stand for 5 days. On the first day, he made $5. Every day after that he made $2 more than the previous day. How much money did Marcus made in all after 5 days?

Find A Pattern Model (Intermediate)

In this lesson, we will look at some intermediate examples of Find a Pattern method of problem-solving strategy.

Example: The figure shows a series of rectangles where each rectangle is bounded by 10 dots. a) How many dots are required for 7 rectangles? b) If the figure has 73 dots, how many rectangles would there be?

a) The number of dots required for 7 rectangles is 52.

b) If the figure has 73 dots, there would be 10 rectangles.

Example: Each triangle in the figure below has 3 dots. Study the pattern and find the number of dots for 7 layers of triangles.

The number of dots for 7 layers of triangles is 36.

Example: The table below shows numbers placed into groups I, II, III, IV, V and VI. In which groups would the following numbers belong? a) 25 b) 46 c) 269

Solution: The pattern is: The remainder when the number is divided by 6 determines the group. a) 25 ÷ 6 = 4 remainder 1 (Group I) b) 46 ÷ 6 = 7 remainder 4 (Group IV) c) 269 ÷ 6 = 44 remainder 5 (Group V)

Example: The following figures were formed using matchsticks.

a) Based on the above series of figures, complete the table below.

b) How many triangles are there if the figure in the series has 9 squares?

c) How many matchsticks would be used in the figure in the series with 11 squares?

b) The pattern is +2 for each additional square.   18 + 2 = 20   If the figure in the series has 9 squares, there would be 20 triangles.

c) The pattern is + 7 for each additional square   61 + (3 x 7) = 82   If the figure in the series has 11 squares, there would be 82 matchsticks.

Example: Seven ex-schoolmates had a gathering. Each one of them shook hands with all others once. How many handshakes were there?

Total = 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 21 handshakes.

The following video shows more examples of using problem solving strategies and models. Question 1: Approximate your average speed given some information Question 2: The table shows the number of seats in each of the first four rows in an auditorium. The remaining ten rows follow the same pattern. Find the number of seats in the last row. Question 3: You are hanging three pictures in the wall of your home that is 16 feet wide. The width of your pictures are 2, 3 and 4 feet. You want space between your pictures to be the same and the space to the left and right to be 6 inches more than between the pictures. How would you place the pictures?

The following are some other examples of problem solving strategies.

Explore it/Act it/Try it (EAT) Method (Basic) Explore it/Act it/Try it (EAT) Method (Intermediate) Explore it/Act it/Try it (EAT) Method (Advanced)

Finding A Pattern (Basic) Finding A Pattern (Intermediate) Finding A Pattern (Advanced)

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elementary math problem solving examples

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Elementary math word problem key words and their limitations.

When you tell your students you will be working on word problems, do you hear a chorus of groans? If so, you are not alone! Teaching students how to solve math word problems tends to not be the most exciting math exercise in an elementary math curriculum (especially not learning about word problem key words and how they can be used to solve problems). They also tend to be very challenging for students. No wonder many students don’t like them!

In order for students to become proficient in mathematics, however, they need to apply their math learning to real life situations , which can be achieved through word problems. This experience should not be about following rote procedures and computing correct responses. When solving these types of problems, it is important for students to apply multiple strategies to make sense of the problem and solve it. These experiences should be grounded in strategy application and problem solving, rather than simply computation.

Identifying word problem key words is one of many strategies elementary students can use to help them solve single and multi-step word problems. Additionally, students need access to anchor charts, tools, and manipulatives that will equip them with the resources they need for these problem solving experiences. Using keywords for math word problems is just one piece of the puzzle!

This blog post will answer the following questions:

elementary math problem solving examples

What are Word Problem Key Words?

Word problem key words are words or phrases that signal which operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division) are needed in order to solve a math word problem.

Using keywords for math word problems (often referred to as clue words and phrases) is a strategy to make sense of and solve word problems. It is the idea of training the brain to look for specific words and phrases to determine what mathematical operations are needed. Here is an example of this strategy in practice:

Erin reads the problem: Pat has 3 red shirts. He has 2 blue shirts. How many red and blue shirts does he have in all? After reading through the problem once, Erin rereads the problem but this time she is looking specifically for the clue words and phrases she has learned. She highlights or underlines the phrase “in all.” She has learned in class that “in all” signals to the reader that they need to add. This strategy has helped her make sense of the problem (which in this case means that the addition operation is needed), set up an equation (3 + 2 = ?), and solve for the answer (5 shirts).

a teacher showing students how to use word problem key words in math

Common Math Word Problem Key Words and Phrases

Below is a list of key words and phrases that students can use to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division word problems. If you teach the younger grades, you’ll find the list of addition and subtraction key words helpful. If you teach the older grades, you’ll find those helpful, as well as the multiplication and division key words.

Addition Key Words

Here are some examples of addition key words :

Subtraction Key Words

Here are some examples of subtraction key words :

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Multiplication Key Words

Here are some examples of multiplication key words :

Division Key Words

Here are some examples of division key words :

elementary students solving word problems digitally

Limitations of Using Keywords to Solve Word Problems

When students are learning how to solve word problems, it is beneficial for them to be exposed to, directly taught, and given practice with key words (also sometimes written as word problem keywords or keywords for math word problems). However, students need to understand that problems can be solved in many different ways. This is just one tool in their toolkit.  It is not always the most effective strategy to solve a given word problem. For example, students should not be trained to always subtract when they see the word less because they could use a missing addend from addition to solve.  This strategy should be used along with other strategies (e.g. visualization). As students progress through their math education and come across more challenging word problems, this strategy will become less effective. As a result, your students need to be equipped with an abundance of diverse strategies.

Math Resources for 1st-5th Grade Teachers

If you need printable and digital math resources for your classroom, then check out my time and money-saving math collections below!

Free Elementary Math Resources

We would love for you to try these word problem resources with your students. It offers them opportunities to practice applying word problem key words strategies, as well as other problem solving strategies. You can download word problem worksheets specific to your grade level (along with lots of other math freebies) in our free printable math resources bundle using this link: free printable math activities for elementary teachers .

Check out my monthly word problem resources !

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Problem Solving

Problem Solving Strategies

Think back to the first problem in this chapter, the ABC Problem . What did you do to solve it? Even if you did not figure it out completely by yourself, you probably worked towards a solution and figured out some things that did not work.

Unlike exercises, there is never a simple recipe for solving a problem. You can get better and better at solving problems, both by building up your background knowledge and by simply practicing. As you solve more problems (and learn how other people solved them), you learn strategies and techniques that can be useful. But no single strategy works every time.

Pólya’s How to Solve It

George Pólya was a great champion in the field of teaching effective problem solving skills.  He was born in Hungary in 1887, received his Ph.D. at the University of Budapest, and was a professor at Stanford University (among other universities).  He wrote many mathematical papers along with three books, most famously, “How to Solve it.” Pólya died at the age 98 in 1985. [1]

George Pólya ca 1973

 In 1945, Pólya published the short book How to Solve It , which gave a four-step method for solving mathematical problems:

This is all well and good, but how do you actually do these steps?!?! Steps 1. and 2. are particularly mysterious! How do you “make a plan?” That is where you need some tools in your toolbox, and some experience to draw upon.

Much has been written since 1945 to explain these steps in more detail, but the truth is that they are more art than science. This is where math becomes a creative endeavor (and where it becomes so much fun). We will articulate some useful problem solving strategies, but no such list will ever be complete. This is really just a start to help you on your way. The best way to become a skilled problem solver is to learn the background material well, and then to solve a lot of problems!

We have already seen one problem solving strategy, which we call “Wishful Thinking.” Do not be afraid to change the problem! Ask yourself “what if” questions:

You need to be sure to go back to the original problem at the end, but wishful thinking can be a powerful strategy for getting started.

This brings us to the most important problem solving strategy of all:

Problem Solving Strategy 2 (Try Something!). If you are really trying to solve a problem, the whole point is that you do not know what to do right out of the starting gate. You need to just try something! Put pencil to paper (or stylus to screen or chalk to board or whatever!) and try something. This is often an important step in understanding the problem; just mess around with it a bit to understand the situation and figure out what is going on.

And equally important: If what you tried first does not work, try something else! Play around with the problem until you have a feel for what is going on.

Problem 2 (Payback)

Last week, Alex borrowed money from several of his friends. He finally got paid at work, so he brought cash to school to pay back his debts. First he saw Brianna, and he gave her 1/4 of the money he had brought to school. Then Alex saw Chris and gave him 1/3 of what he had left after paying Brianna. Finally, Alex saw David and gave him 1/2 of what he had remaining. Who got the most money from Alex?


After you have worked on the problem on your own for a while, talk through your ideas with a partner (even if you have not solved it). What did you try? What did you figure out about the problem?

This problem lends itself to two particular strategies. Did you try either of these as you worked on the problem? If not, read about the strategy and then try it out before watching the solution.

Problem Solving Strategy 3 (Draw a Picture). Some problems are obviously about a geometric situation, and it is clear you want to draw a picture and mark down all of the given information before you try to solve it. But even for a problem that is not geometric, like this one, thinking visually can help! Can you represent something in the situation by a picture?

Draw a square to represent all of Alex’s money. Then shade 1/4 of the square — that’s what he gave away to Brianna. How can the picture help you finish the problem?

After you have worked on the problem yourself using this strategy (or if you are completely stuck), you can watch someone else’s solution.

Problem Solving Strategy 4 (Make Up Numbers). Part of what makes this problem difficult is that it is about money, but there are no numbers given. That means the numbers must not be important. So just make them up!

You can work forwards: Assume Alex had some specific amount of money when he showed up at school, say $100. Then figure out how much he gives to each person. Or you can work backwards: suppose he has some specific amount left at the end, like $10. Since he gave Chris half of what he had left, that means he had $20 before running into Chris. Now, work backwards and figure out how much each person got.

Watch the solution only after you tried this strategy for yourself.

If you use the “Make Up Numbers” strategy, it is really important to remember what the original problem was asking! You do not want to answer something like “Everyone got $10.” That is not true in the original problem; that is an artifact of the numbers you made up. So after you work everything out, be sure to re-read the problem and answer what was asked!

Problem 3 (Squares on a Chess Board)

How many squares, of any possible size, are on a 8 × 8 chess board? (The answer is not 64… It’s a lot bigger!)

Remember Pólya’s first step is to understand the problem. If you are not sure what is being asked, or why the answer is not just 64, be sure to ask someone!

Think / Pair / Share

After you have worked on the problem on your own for a while, talk through your ideas with a partner (even if you have not solved it). What did you try? What did you figure out about the problem, even if you have not solved it completely?

It is clear that you want to draw a picture for this problem, but even with the picture it can be hard to know if you have found the correct answer. The numbers get big, and it can be hard to keep track of your work. Your goal at the end is to be absolutely positive that you found the right answer. You should never ask the teacher, “Is this right?” Instead, you should declare, “Here’s my answer, and here is why I know it is correct!”

Problem Solving Strategy 5 (Try a Simpler Problem). Pólya suggested this strategy: “If you can’t solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you can solve: find it.” He also said: “If you cannot solve the proposed problem, try to solve first some related problem. Could you imagine a more accessible related problem?” In this case, an 8 × 8 chess board is pretty big. Can you solve the problem for smaller boards? Like 1 × 1? 2 × 2? 3 × 3?

Of course the ultimate goal is to solve the original problem. But working with smaller boards might give you some insight and help you devise your plan (that is Pólya’s step (2)).

Problem Solving Strategy 6 (Work Systematically). If you are working on simpler problems, it is useful to keep track of what you have figured out and what changes as the problem gets more complicated.

For example, in this problem you might keep track of how many 1 × 1 squares are on each board, how many 2 × 2 squares on are each board, how many 3 × 3 squares are on each board, and so on. You could keep track of the information in a table:

Problem Solving Strategy 7 (Use Manipulatives to Help You Investigate). Sometimes even drawing a picture may not be enough to help you investigate a problem. Having actual materials that you move around can sometimes help a lot!

For example, in this problem it can be difficult to keep track of which squares you have already counted. You might want to cut out 1 × 1 squares, 2 × 2 squares, 3 × 3 squares, and so on. You can actually move the smaller squares across the chess board in a systematic way, making sure that you count everything once and do not count anything twice.

Problem Solving Strategy 8 (Look for and Explain Patterns). Sometimes the numbers in a problem are so big, there is no way you will actually count everything up by hand. For example, if the problem in this section were about a 100 × 100 chess board, you would not want to go through counting all the squares by hand! It would be much more appealing to find a pattern in the smaller boards and then extend that pattern to solve the problem for a 100 × 100 chess board just with a calculation.

If you have not done so already, extend the table above all the way to an 8 × 8 chess board, filling in all the rows and columns. Use your table to find the total number of squares in an 8 × 8 chess board. Then:

(We will come back to this question soon. So if you are not sure right now how to explain and justify the patterns you found, that is OK.)

Problem 4 (Broken Clock)

This clock has been broken into three pieces. If you add the numbers in each piece, the sums are consecutive numbers. ( Consecutive numbers are whole numbers that appear one after the other, such as 1, 2, 3, 4 or 13, 14, 15.)

elementary math problem solving examples

Can you break another clock into a different number of pieces so that the sums are consecutive numbers? Assume that each piece has at least two numbers and that no number is damaged (e.g. 12 isn’t split into two digits 1 and 2.)

Remember that your first step is to understand the problem. Work out what is going on here. What are the sums of the numbers on each piece? Are they consecutive?

After you have worked on the problem on your own for a while, talk through your ideas with a partner (even if you have not solved it). What did you try? What progress have you made?

Problem Solving Strategy 9 (Find the Math, Remove the Context). Sometimes the problem has a lot of details in it that are unimportant, or at least unimportant for getting started. The goal is to find the underlying math problem, then come back to the original question and see if you can solve it using the math.

In this case, worrying about the clock and exactly how the pieces break is less important than worrying about finding consecutive numbers that sum to the correct total. Ask yourself:

Of course, solving the question about consecutive numbers is not the same as solving the original problem. You have to go back and see if the clock can actually break apart so that each piece gives you one of those consecutive numbers. Maybe you can solve the math problem, but it does not translate into solving the clock problem.

Problem Solving Strategy 10 (Check Your Assumptions). When solving problems, it is easy to limit your thinking by adding extra assumptions that are not in the problem. Be sure you ask yourself: Am I constraining my thinking too much?

In the clock problem, because the first solution has the clock broken radially (all three pieces meet at the center, so it looks like slicing a pie), many people assume that is how the clock must break. But the problem does not require the clock to break radially. It might break into pieces like this:

elementary math problem solving examples

Were you assuming the clock would break in a specific way? Try to solve the problem now, if you have not already.

Mathematics for Elementary Teachers by Michelle Manes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Solving Math Word Problems

5 Strategies to Learn to Solve Math Word Problems

A critical step in math fluency is the ability to solve math word problems. The funny thing about solving math word problems is that it isn’t just about math. Students need to have strong reading skills as well as the growth mindset needed for problem-solving. Strong problem solving skills need to be taught as well. In this article, let’s go over some strategies to help students improve their math problem solving skills when it comes to math word problems. These skills are great for students of all levels but especially important for students that struggle with math anxiety or students with animosity toward math.

Signs of Students Struggling with Math Word Problems

It is important to look at the root cause of what is causing the student to struggle with math problems. If you are in a tutoring situation, you can check your students reading level to see if that is contributing to the issue. You can also support the student in understanding math keywords and key phrases that they might need unpacked. Next, students might need to slow their thinking down and be taught to tackle the word problem bit by bit.

How to Help Students Solve Math Word Problems

Focus on math keywords and mathematical key phrases.

The first step in helping students with math word problems is focusing on keywords and phrases. For example, the words combined or increased by can mean addition. If you teach keywords and phrases they should watch out for students will gain the cues needed to go about solving a word problem. It might be a good idea to have them underline or highlight these words.

Cross out Extra Information

Along with highlighting important keywords students should also try to decipher the important from unimportant information. To help emphasize what is important in the problem, ask your students to cross out the unimportant distracting information.  This way, it will allow them to focus on what they can use to solve the problem.

Encourage Asking Questions

As you give them time to read, allow them to have time to ask questions on what they just read. Asking questions will help them understand what to focus on and what to ignore. Once they get through that, they can figure out the right math questions and add another item under their problem-solving strategies.

Draw the Problem

A fun way to help your students understand the problem is through letting them draw it on graph paper. For example, if a math problem asks a student to count the number of fruits that Farmer John has, ask them to draw each fruit while counting them. This is a great strategy for visual learners.

Check Back Once They Answer

Once they figured out the answer to the math problem, ask them to recheck their answer. Checking their answer is a good habit for learning and one that should be encouraged but students need to be taught how to check their answer. So the first step would be to review the word problem to make sure that they are solving the correct problem. Then to make sure that they set it up right. This is important because sometimes students will check their equation but will not reread the word problem and make sure that the equation is set up right. So always have them do this first! Once students believe that they have read and set up the correct equation, they should be taught to check their work and redo the problem, I also like to teach them to use the opposite to double check, for example if their equation is 2+3=5, I will show them how to take 5 which is the whole and check their work backwards 5-3 and that should equal 2. This is an important step and solidifies mathematical thinking in children.

Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices are a great way to remember all of the types of math strategy in this post. The following are ones that I have heard of and wanted to share:

Solving Math Word Problems

CUBES Word Problem Strategy

Cubes is a mnemonic to remember the following steps in solving math word problems:

C: Circle the numbers

U: Underline the question

B: Box in the key words

E: Eliminate the information

S: Solve the problem & show your work

RISE Word Problem Strategy

Rise is another way to explain the steps needed to solve problems:

R: Read and reread

I: Illustrate what is being asked

S: Solve by writing your equation or number sentences

E: Explain your thinking

RISE Math Word Problem Strategy

COINS Word Problem Strategy

C: Comprehend the questions

O: Observe the data

I: Illustrate the problem

N: Write the number sentence (equation)

Understand -Plan – Solve – Check Word Problem Strategy

This is a simple step solution to show students the big picture. I think this along with one of the mnemonic devices helps students with better understanding of the approach.

Understand: What is the question asking? Do you understand all the words?

Plan: What would be a reasonable answer? In this stage students are formulating their approach to the word problem. 

Solve: What strategies will I use to solve this problem? Am I showing my thinking? Here students use the strategies outlined in this post to attack the problem.

Check: Students will ask themselves if they answered the question and if their answer makes sense. 

Understand -Plan - Solve - Check Word Problem Strategy

If you need word problems to use with your classroom, you can check out my word problems resource below.

Math Word Problems

Teaching students how to approach and solve math word problems is an important skill. Solving word problems is the closest math skill that resembles math in the real world. Encouraging students to slow their thinking, examine and analyze the word problem and encourage the habit of answer checking will give your students the learning skills that can be applied not only to math but to all learning. I also wrote a blog post on a specific type of math word problem called cognitively guided instruction you can read information on that too. It is just a different way that math problems are written and worth understanding to teach problem solving, click here to read .

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Word Problems Explained For Elementary School Parents & Teachers

Sophie Bartlett

Sophie Bartlett

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:

Vocabulary Used In Word Problems

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 theses component: 

(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.

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?

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.

quantity word problem

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?)

See this example of bar modelling for this question:

money word problem

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

What change does Mara get? 2) $20 – $17.38 = $2.62

Math Word Problems For Kindergarten to Grade 5

The more children learn about math as they go through elementary school, the trickier the word problems they face will become.

Below you will find some information about the types of word problems your child will be coming up against on a year by year basis, and how word problems apply to each elementary grade. 

Word problems in kindergarten

Throughout kindergarten a child is likely to be introduced to word problems with the help of concrete resources (manipulatives, such as pieces of physical apparatus like coins, cards, counters or number lines) to help them understand the problem.

An example of a word problem for kindergarten would be

Chris has 3 red bounce balls and 2 green bounce balls. How many bounce balls does Chris have in all?

Word problems 1st grade

First grade is a continuation of kindergarten when it comes to word problems, with children still using concrete resources to help them understand and visualize the problems they are working on

An example of a word problem for first grade would be:

A class of 10 children each have 5 pencils in their pencil cases. How many pencils are there in total?

Word problems in 2nd grade

In second grade, children will move away from using concrete resources when solving word problems, and move towards using written methods. Teachers will begin to demonstrate the adding and subtracting within 100, adding up to 4- two-digit numbers at a time.

This is also the year in which 2-step word problems will be introduced. This is a problem which requires two individual calculations to be completed.

Second grade word problem: Geometry properties of shape

Shaun is making shapes out of plastic straws.

At the vertices where the straws meet, he uses blobs of modeling clay to fix them together

Here are some of the shapes he makes:

One of Sean’s shapes is a triangle. Which is it? Explain your answer.

Answer: shape B as a triangle has 3 sides (straws) and 3 vertices, or angles (clay)

Second grade word problem: Statistics

2nd grade is collecting pebbles. This pictogram shows the different numbers of pebbles each group finds.

Second grade word problem: Statistics

Word problems in 3rd grade

At this stage of their elementary school career, children should feel confident using the written method for addition and subtraction. They will begin multiplying and dividing within 100. 

This year children will be presented with a variety of problems, including 2-step problems and be expected to work out the appropriate method required to solve each one. 

3rd grade word problem: Number and place value

My number has four digits and has a 7 in the hundreds place.

The digit which has the highest value in my number is 2.

The digit which has the lowest value in my number is 6.

My number has 3 fewer tens than hundreds.

What is my number?

Answer: 2,746

Word problems in 4th grade

One and two-step word problems continue in fourth grade, but this is also the year that children will be introduced to word problems containing decimals.

Fourth grade word problem: Fractions and decimals

Stan, Frank and John are washing their cars outside their houses.

Stan has washed 0.5 of his car.

Frank has washed 1/5 of his car.

Norm has washed 2/5 of his car.

Who has washed the most?

Explain your answer.

Answer: Stan (he has washed 0.5 whereas Frank has only washed 0.2 and Norm 0.4)

Word problems in 5th grade

In fifth grade children move on from 2-step word problems to multi-step word problems . These will include fractions and decimals.

Here are some examples of the types of math word problems in fifth grade will have to solve.

5th grade word problem – Ratio and proportion

The Angel of the North is a large statue in England. It is 20 meters tall and 54 meters wide. 

Ally makes a scale model of the Angel of the North. Her model is 40 centimeters tall. How wide is her model?

Answer: 108cm

Fifth grade word problem – Algebra

Amina is making designs with two different shapes.

She gives each shape a value.

Word problem question for KS2

Calculate the value of each shape.

Answer: 36 (hexagon) and 25. 

Fifth grade word problem: Measurement

Answer: 1.7 liters or 1,700ml

Topic based word problems

The following examples give you an idea of the kinds of math word problems your child will encounter in elementary school

Place value word problem fourth grade

This machine subtracts one hundredth each time the button is pressed. The starting number is 8.43. What number will the machine show if the button is pressed six times? Answer: 8.37

Download free number and place value word problems for grades 2, 3, 4 and 5

Addition and subtraction word problem grade 2

Sam has 64 sweets. He gets given 12 more. He then gives 22 away. How many sweets is he left with? Answer: 54

Download free addition and subtraction word problems for for grades 2, 3, 4 and 5

Addition word problem grade 2

Sammy thinks of a number. He subtracts 70. His new number is 12. What was the number Sammy thought of? Answer: 82

Subtraction word problem fifth grade

The temperature at 7pm was 4oC. By midnight, it had dropped by 9 degrees. What was the temperature at midnight? Answer: -5oC

Multiplication word problem third grade

Eggs are sold in boxes of 12. The egg boxes are delivered to stores in crates. Each crate holds 9 boxes. How many eggs are in a crate? Answer: 108

Download free multiplication word problems for grades 2, 3, 4 and 5. 

Division word problem fifth grade

A factory produces 3,572 paint brushes every day. They are packaged into boxes of 19. How many boxes does the factory produce every day? Answer: 188

Download free division word problems for grades 2, 3, 4 and 5. 

Free resource: Use these four operations word problems to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication and division all together.

Fraction word problem fourth grade

At the end of every day, a chocolate factory has 1 and 2/6 boxes of chocolates left over. How many boxes of chocolates are left over by the end of a week? Answer: 9 and 2/6 or 9 and 1/3

Download free fractions and decimals word problems for grades 2, 3, 4 and 5. 

Money word problem second grade 

Lucy and Noor found some money on the playground at recess. Lucy found 2 dimes and 1 penny, and Noor found 2 quarters and a dime. How many cents did Lucy and Noor find? Answer: Lucy = $0.21, Noor = $0.60; $0.21 + $0.61 = $0.81

Area word problem 3rd grade

A rectangle measures 6cm by 5cm.

Area word problem 3rd grade

What is its area? Answer: 30cm2

Perimeter word problem 3rd grade

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

Ratio word problem 5th grade (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

PEMDAS word problem fifth grade

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

50 – 10 × 5 =

Volume word problem fifth grade

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 fourth and fifth grade students more opportunities to consolidate learning and practice skills through personalized elementary 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. Programs are available for fourth grade and fifth grade , and you can try 6 lessons absolutely free .

elementary math problem solving examples

Individual packs for Kindergarten to Grade 5 containing fun math games and activities to complete independently or with a partner.

The activities are designed to be fun, flexible and suitable for a range of abilities.

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