There were 15 zombies...

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SWBAT write a story problem to match a given equation.

Big Idea

Aren't your kids obsessed with zombies? Students practice math AND creative writing as they write story problems to match equations. *Walking Dead copyright AMC*

Setting Up the Learning

3 minutes

Aren't you kids zombie nuts right now?! Mine are! They can't stop talking about them! Using relevant topics is a great way to get your reluctant mathematicians thinking and invested.

This lesson comes after a TON of practice in the unit on thinking about story problems and the meaning behind the symbols we use to represent the actions: +, - and =. This lesson asks students to apply what they understand about these symbols to create their own story problems. Students are doing a very rigorous version of 1.OA.1! They are taking their understanding of story problems and applying it to creative writing. 


See youtube link below to see how I opened the lesson! Watch for how I explain WHAT we are doing, WHY we are doing it and HOW we know we have met our learning goal.

Lesson Opening

Opening Discussion

10 minutes

I have a number sentence here and I am trying to figure out which story it matches. Lets see if you can figure it out!

I'll present this number sentence on chart paper:

7 + 4 = _____

Present problem: Your job is to figure out which story problem represents this equation.

Here are the 2 story problems (on chart paper):

  • There are 7 cats in my yard. 4 of them run away. How many cats are in my yard now?

  • There are 7 cats in my yard. 4 more cats come to play. How many cats are in my yard now?


For formative data, turn and talk: Which one do you think matches this number sentence? Why do you think that?

Focus scaffolding questions:

  • What evidence do you have in the problem that shows it matches 7+4?
  • Why does the other story problem not match this number sentence? What number sentence would match instead?


To push students to start using more mental strategies, I’ll have them turn and talk to solve. Turn and talk: How many cats are in my yard now? 


Student Work and Problem Share

15 minutes

Now that students have selected which story problem matches a given problem, now they are going to generate a story problem to match 18-2 with me. CCSS MP2 asks students to reason abstractly and quantitatively-they both can represent a story using numbers and symbols AND take numbers and symbols and contextualize them into a story.

Modeling Questions and Think Aloud:

  • I am going to write a story problem about zombies to match this number sentence. First I had 18 zombies. I’ll pretend they are at the park.

  • Did more zombies come? Or did some go away? How many went away? I am going to have 2 go away to the zoo.

  • Now I need to ask a question for the missing part: How many zombies are left?

Lets read the story I came up with:
  • There were 18 zombies in the park. 2 of them went to the zoo. How many zombies are left? Lets make sure it matches my equation. First there were 18, then I took 2 away and now there are 16.


Present student work time problem: 3+11= ___  Lets make this story problem all about cupcakes!

Planning Partner Talk Questions:

  • Are we going to get more cupcakes or take some away? How do you know? 
  • How could we get more cupcakes? Possible ideas: Your mom gave you some. You bought some more at the store. You made some more. You got more out.
  • How many more cupcakes will we get?


I"ll send students to work independently and write their own story problems. This writing time is aligned to L.1.1j, as students are practicing using a variety of kinds of sentences to tell their story and then ask a question about it. This also is aligned to the CCSS vision for writing across the curriculum.

After the work time, students will share their story problems with a partner. Students will prove that the story problem matches the number sentence and Ill share out a few exemplars with the class. 

See attached document for the student work time problem!

Independent Practice

15 minutes

Students write their own story problems to match a given number sentence. Students get differentiated sets of numbers based on ability level. 

  • Group A: Intervention, Numbers under 10
  • Group B: Right on Track, Numbers under 25. See attached video of a student in Group B writing a story problem! 
  • Group C: Extension, Numbers under 100

See attached documents for independent practice sheets.



5 minutes

Students will each bring a problem to share with a partner. I'll share one exemplar problem with the class. I'll leave this problem on chart paper for students to solve later in the day during free time or snack.