Word problems are always a challenge for students. There is so much involved in solving word problems that it can be challenging to pinpoint what is causing the challenge for students. Is it reading comprehension? Is it computation? Are students overly relying on key words? And the list goes on.
On of my strategies is to make sure students are comfortable with all types of word problems. It can be easy to get student in a word problem rut without exposing students to ALL types of problems. The Types of Word Problems resource is very helpful for teaching this!
Addition and Subtraction
There are three main types of addition and subtraction problems:
- joining problems
- separating problems
- comparing problems
Students should solve problems where the result is unknown, change is unknown, or start is unknown. When I begin teaching types of word problems I use small numbers so students can use counters to illustrate the problem. Students also enjoy role playing and writing their own word problems.
Multiplication and Division
There are also three main types of multiplication and division word problems:
- equal groups
- comparing problems
Within each type of problem, the product may be unknown, the group size may be unknown, or the number of groups may be unknown. Once again, I use counters to have students determine which equation to use to determine how to solve the different types of problems. Students should also notice the difference between addition/subtraction problems and multiplication/division problems.
In the resource, there are posters for each type of word problem. You can display these after you introduce that type of word problem and then refer to the posters throughout the year. You can even print this in a smaller size so students can add these to their math notebooks.
There are three mini books where students can write their own word problems that reflect each style of word problem. One booklet is for addition and subtraction and the second booklet is for multiplication and division word problems. The third version is for both addition and subtraction. In this version, I replaced all numbers with letters, because I wanted my students to not focus on a numerical answer, but the equation used to solve the problem. I found that my students’ primary focus was the answer, not the process.
When students have to write a word problem to reflect a certain style of word problem, it raises the level of thinking and problem solving significantly. This is a much more complex skill, so we typically practice writing word problems through guided practice first.
For additional practice solving and identifying types of word problems, I’ve created 22 addition and subtraction and 18 multiplication and division task cards, for a total of 40 task cards. There are two task cards for each type of word problem, so there is a wide variety of problems.