Word problems help kids combine their math and reading skills and apply them to new scenarios. They also build critical thinking and problem solving skills because they require kids to figure out what the problem is asking them to do and come up with the appropriate equation on their own. Finding and coming up with word problems for kids doesn’t have to be tricky. Just look for inspiration in the activities and stories that kids enjoy. To make it a little easier, we’ve rounded up a few examples and suggestions to get you started.
In kindergarten, kids have just started to read, so the word problems need to be simple. Creating rebus word problems, where you insert pictures for key words can be a positive solution. Focus on word problems that involve simple counting, addition, or subtraction.
I have 2 cookies. She has 2 cookies. How many cookies do we have?
The dog has 4 bones. He buries one bone. How many bones does he have left?
In first grade, kids still focus on basic addition and subtraction, but they begin to ramp it up a bit. You can add a bit more difficulty to word problems as well. For example, you may incorporate lengths or coin values into word problems.
You want to buy a toy that costs $5.50. You earned $3. How much more do you need to buy the toy?
John’s new room is 10 feet long and 8 feet wide. His bed is 5 feet long and 4 feet wide. Will it fit in the room?
Second grade math involves more complicated addition and subtraction, as well as new concepts such as fractions and the basics of multiplication and division. Word problems can incorporate figuring out how to divide objects or how many objects comprise a group of sets.
Eric invited 3 friends over for dinner. The pizza has 12 slices. How much pizza will each friend get?
Three chickens are walking in some sand. Each chicken takes 3 steps with both of its feet. How many chicken tracks are in the sand?
Third grade math focuses on learning to multiply and divide, as well as interpreting data and recognizing patterns. Word problems can focus on multiplying or dividing, as well as taking data and putting it into a chart.
Nora ate 3 apples on Monday, 6 apples on Tuesday, and 9 apples on Wednesday. Create a chart showing how many apples Nora ate each day. Based on the pattern, how many apples did Nora eat on the first day of the week (Sunday)? How many apples did Nora eat on Wednesday?
Jackson brought cupcakes for his class. If there were 24 kids, including Jackson, and 1 teacher in Jackson’s class and each person got 2 cupcakes, how many cupcakes total did he bring?
In fourth grade, kids begin to apply their basic math skills to new scenarios, such as working with money or using different representations of numbers, including fractions, decimals, and percentages. As a result, word problems start to become a bit more complex and may begin to build on one another. Math Game Time’s Word Problems about Money worksheet helps illustrate the approach some fourth grade word problems may take. Other examples include:
Part A: For the school bake sale, kids brought in 64 chocolate chip cookies, 47 peanut butter cookies, 26 blueberry muffins, 31 bran muffins, 59 vanilla cupcakes, and 52 chocolate cupcakes. Approximately how many cookies did kids bring in? Muffins? Cupcakes?
Part B: The kids have approximately the same amount of a few types of baked goods. Which baked goods do they approximately have the same amount of?
Part C: The school wants to raise approximately $500 from the bake sale. Cookies will be the cheapest. Muffins the next most expensive. Cupcakes the most expensive. No item can cost over $1.50. Approximately how much should the school sell each item for to make sure they meet their goal?
In fifth grade, as kids learn to more comfortably work with decimals, fractions, and percentages, their word problems also begin to incorporate those concepts. They may also start introducing kids to solving expressions with variables, something word problems will include when they enter middle school and high school.
Alyssa wants to buy a shirt that is originally priced at 23.99. The shirt is 20% off. Her mom also has a coupon that allows her to take an additional 10% off the sale price. When Alyssa gets to the register, she will have to pay a 5% sales tax on the shirt and a $3.99 pair of earrings she picked up. What will Alyssa’s total be?
Xander needs to buy paint for a project. Each bottle of paint costs $1.50. Xander needs 5 bottles of green paint, 3 bottles of red paint, 1 bottle of yellow paint, and 3 bottles of blue paint. Write an equation that Xander can use to help figure out the total cost of one color of paint, using a variable to represent the number of bottles.
Teaching Kids to Solve Word Problems
Don’t forget that Math Game Time offers resources to help kids learn to solve and practice solving word problems. Worksheets such as Shopping Word Problems and Problems about Perimeter can help kids in third through fifth grade get in plenty of practice while the Solving Word Problems video will give all kids a general idea of how to begin approaching difficult problems.