• Are you a teacher? Join us! Register Now for a free ProTeacher account!

Fun ways of teaching word problems?


Full Member
With my lower math class, I teach two math classes a day, they are struggling with word problems. They are having trouble figuring out whether to add or subtract. I did a lesson on Monday (BAD mistake to do this right after the weekend and first thing in the morning :( ) and the lesson did not go well. The students were getting frustrated and I was getting frustrated. We went over key words to look for. I have a poster in my room on this too. We underlined important information, etc. Is there anything FUN and/or ENGAGING that we can do? It just seems like a topic where there isn't a lot for you to do.

Note: I know a lot of teachers like to have students create their own word problems. I do not think we are at this point. We tried this and the ones they created were super easy. They just aren't at that level yet. I have two math groups, one is on grade level but high, the other group is on but rather low. The low group is what I am talking about.


Full Member

I took a workshop once where we played word problem bingo and have used it a few times with success.
Make a blank bingo worksheet (with as many squares as you have word problems.....may have to add some extra problems, but it depends on the class).
Give them the answers to the problems and let them write them in any square they choose.
Put each problem on an index card (# them so they know which they have done)and place them on a table, desk, etc. (Students can work in pairs.)
They choose a card, take it to their seat, solve, and cross off the answer to the problem.
They put they card back on the table and take another. Keep doing this until someone gets bingo.
Hope I've explained this well enough. The kids really seem to like it!


Senior Member
Personalized Problems

I write some of my own problems and put the students names in them. They love it! The problems are just as difficult and they are working just as hard, but because the problems are about them they are more motivated.

I did them for Back to School, school carnival, Halloween, Winter Holiday, Valentine's Day, Spring Break and end of school. I also did rain forest and ocean problems because they are units we do. I have them saved in our third grade shared folder. That way each teacher can go in a change the names to her new class list each year. I write the names in italicized letters so they are easy to find.

I'll bet students would like sports problems using their names too. Or maybe problems about World Records, but with their names inserted would be fun. i try to add some new ones each year.

Also have you used Greg Tang's math picture books in class? They show fun ways to think differently and solve problems.

Try using a miniature list of key words on each of their desks. You could laminate them so they last longer. Plus I also give them a small copy of our problem solving model for their desk.


Junior Member
Gallery walk

I just did a lesson today on multiple step word problems. I divided the kids into four groups. I then typed the problem on a piece of paper. Then I typed each of these questions on one piece of paper: What is the hidden question in this problem?, What do you need to find out?, Show how you solved this problem., and Write the answer in a complete sentence. I taped each of these papers together to form a long strip and put markers on the tables with them.

I then explained to the children that everyone was responsible to read every problem and check all of the work done before them. They should get me if they disagree with another group's work. Each group rotated four times and completed four different steps. I heard nothing but positive comments from the kids and I was so pleased, that I hung the problems up on the wall! I really like how it forced the kids to work together and really read each and every problem. It really emphasizes the problem solving process too!

I don't know where I got this idea. I think it was from another teacher who heard about it at a conference.

Ali T

This tip helped me get a job!

Just wanted to say thank you for posting this idea. I have been attending interviews, without getting a job, for over a year now. I finally got a good job last week, based on an observed lesson, using your idea of naming the students in the word problems. It adds another dimension of interest for the children, and I combined it with some reality, so they were holding objects in front of the class. So thank you!


Math Word Problems

Each student received a copy of a coffee mug (on bottom of paper, need room for marshmallows). Some mugs had hearts, shapes, stripes, starts, circles, etc. I just took a coffee mug template and drew in the objects. There were twelve objects on each mug. Each time the student solved an algorithm correctly, they got to color in one object. This really got them motivated. We moved on to word problems... each time they solved a word problem correctly, they got to add a marshmallow above their mug. (if you lick a marshmallow it sticks to paper). This was so much fun and really motivated them to solve them correctly! The students who colored in their entire mug topped with marshmallows got to display in the hallway.