Why Multi-Step Word Problems Are So Important

More often than not children don’t like word problems. There is a sense of fear associated with trying to decode math word problems. Try in a multi-step word problem and forget it. As a child I can remember freezing up when I got to the word problems in my textbook. Even if I knew the skill procedurally I would panic. I was never properly taught how to evaluate and solve word problems. As a teacher I make sure to equip my students with the tools they need to solve word problems with confidence and ease.

How Often Do I Give My Students Multi-Step Word Problems?

The easiest way to create a classroom of students that are used to solving word problems is to flood your students with word problems. It sounds obvious, but most textbooks and workbooks provide practice with procedural based questions. In my classroom 80% of the questions I give to my students are word problems and 20% are procedural based questions. At first your students will hate this. They will look at you with sheer panic. Don’t back down. We learn best when we practice something daily. Word problems are no different. I use a word problem to start my math block every day. They are complex and conceptual based. Most often my students are not going to successfully solve it on the first try, but it’s the grit I’m targeting. I’m building their stamina.

Give Your Students the Proper Tools

At the start of the year I teach my students strategies for solving word problems. From pulling out important information and numbers to looking for words that lead to the correct operation needed to solve the questions, I provide my students with a toolkit for the year. This toolkit comes in the form of a flipbook that has examples and tips for how to solve world problems. Give your students something to reference to ease anxiety.

Spiral Review

Multi-step word problems can help you review curriculum that has been previously taught. If you review place value at the beginning of the year and never reference back to the skill, your students will forget what you taught them. I use Step Up Math Task Cards during math rotations to keep previously covered standards fresh for my students. It’s great practice for standardized testing.
Word problems are like mini stories. They allow you to touch upon key reading strategies that are covered in your curriculum. From text features to visualizing, students are using reading strategies to fully comprehend what is happening in the story. Embrace the idea that word problems are cross-curricular.

Step Up Math Task Cards can be used for practice, review, and test prep. I use these task cards when introducing a new standard and I need complex word problems for practice. I will use that same set during math rotations when I’m working with my groups for remediation and enrichment. I’ll then spiral the different steps into my math rotations throughout the year for test prep.

If you’re looking for 16 sets of multi-step word problems be sure to check out our Step Up Math Task Cards in our TpT Store!

Find It Fast

you might also like...