What is a story problem?

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SWBAT identify the three parts of a complete story problem: Name, Answer, Strategy.

Big Idea

Start your year off strong with this introduction to problem solving in first grade! Or use this lesson to kick off your Kindergarten problem solving unit.

Setting Up the Learning

5 minutes

See attached video for more information on timing this lesson so your little ones don't get too wiggly!


In math in Kindergarten, you did some of the same things each day. In first grade, we do story problems all the time! A story problem is a story that has numbers in it. In a story problem we are trying to figure out the missing number.



We have to include all of our important parts of a story problem so others can understand our thinking.



Your thinking question is: What 3 things are always in my story problem?

Opening Discussion

10 minutes

Here is what a story problem might look like. (I'll draw a strategy box and a place for words). There are 3 parts of a story problem: Your name, your strategy and your words.

In the box, you show your strategy. A strategy is how you solved. 

For example, if I use fingers, I have to draw my fingers. If I use cubes, I have to draw the cubes. If I use a counting strategy, I have to write the numbers I said. If I did something in my brain, I can draw a thought bubble. This box is super important because it shows exactly how you thought through a problem.


We have a problem we are going to do all together.


Let’s read this problem together 2 times. I put pictures in your problems to make them easier to read.

I have 3 puppets in my toy box.

My dad put 3 more puppets in my toy box.

How many puppets do I have now?


To help students plan how to solve it, we will act out the problem on the rug with real puppets before they go to their desks. 


Now you are going to get your own paper to show how you could figure this out. There are cubes for you to use or you can use a different tool. Who already has an idea of what they are going to use to solve? 

Independent Practice

8 minutes

Students solve 1 problem at their desks. Later in the year, they will solve more. For now, we are learning the routine of what goes on the paper!

As students work, I'll come around and check off each part that they showed: Name, Strategy and Answer on the Criteria for Success at the top.

See attached document for independent practice problem. 


7 minutes

I'll share one student's work. Then as a class, we will check to make sure they included all three parts of a story problem.

I'll say, "Tomorrow you are going to solve another story problem. What are the three things you need to include?"