Solving Multi-Step Word Problems

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SWBAT solve and explain solutions to word problems requiring multiple steps.

Big Idea

As students develop fluency and automaticity with operations, they can practice applying these skills to more analytical word problems.


10 minutes

To begin this lesson, I set up a game format for the students to practice multiplication facts. This game provides the opportunity for students to practice fluency and think of a strategy to challenge other students.  The students work with their table group or up to about six students.  The object of the game is to write a multiplication fact that no one else has written and solve correctly to stay in the game. Each table group is assigned a factor to use in all multiplication facts.  Using whiteboards the students all quickly write a multiplication fact at the same time, and reveal their fact at the same time. If all students write a different fact, and solve correctly, all students continue to the next round.   

For example, one table group was assigned the factor of 8.  Students could write any multiplication fact with 8 such as 

4 x 8 = 32 

7 x 8 = 56 

8 x 3 = 24 

Students try to think of a fact no one else would write.  If two students wrote 4 x 8 = 32 and 8 x 4 = 32, they would both be out of the game.  If a student solved a fact incorrectly, they would be out of the game.  The game continues until one student is left. 

Mini Lesson

10 minutes

The objective of this lesson is to solve word problems with multiple steps including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  My focus on solving word problems is on the steps and procedures for analyzing the word problems rather than just on the solution. 

There are six steps for each problem: 

1. Rewrite the question being asked in the problem using the sentence stem "We need to find the _________________. 

2. Write the key numerical information

3. Draw a model or diagram  

4. Write a number sentence 

5. Write the solution in a word sentence.  

6. Explain how you found your answer. 


Students section a piece of paper into six smaller squares and record the information for each step in a square. 

Try It On Your Own

20 minutes

Working with a partner, the students all have different word problems to use for this lesson.  I display a sample of the steps for the students on the projector so that students can use this as a reference throughout the lesson.  

Sample word problems can be found on the K-5 Math Teaching Resources website.  Using different problems for each student or pair of students allows them to work independently, have math conversations, and discuss different types of solutions. 

As students complete one problem, I provide other problems for them to complete.  During this lesson, students were working to complete three problems following the steps from the mini-lesson. 


5 minutes

To close the lesson, I asked students to identify some challenges they faced with the word problems.  One student described the challenge with the wording of "Joe has four times as many items as another person.  How many do they have altogether?"