## How to Teach Math Word Problems in 2nd Grade

2nd Grade Skills , Math , Word Problems

Your students have mastered their math facts. They understand basic operations. Now it’s time to tackle some word problems! Read on to discover strategies and resources to help teach word problems to 2nd grade learners.

## Why is it important to teach word problems?

Why is it important to teach word problems? Answer: it’s not just because it’s a grade level standard! Word problems allow students to demonstrate a full understanding of the math skills and operations they have learned. Word problems also allow students to use logic, critical thinking, exercise a step-by-step approach, and identify essential information. All of these skills listed are not only important math skills, but also important life skills!

## 5 Word Problems Strategies for 2nd Grade

There are many different strategies to teach students to solve 2nd grade math word problems. Try one, some, or all of the strategies listed to reach learners of all levels and abilities.

## 1. Identify Key Words for Each Operation

In every 2nd grade math word problem, there is an important keyword. This keyword will unlock the answer by telling you what operation must be used to correctly solve the problem. For students to be able to identify the correct operation, they need to recognize and understand the word problem keywords for addition and subtraction.

Common keywords for addition word problems:

• increased by

Common keywords for subtraction word problems:

• left over/left
• how many more

Practice reading word problems aloud together. Can your students spot the keyword in each problem?

## 2. CUBES Math Strategy for Word Problems

The CUBES strategy is a helpful way to solve 2nd grade word problems. Use this acronym to help you remember the steps needed to solve a word problem:

C : Circle the numbers

U : Underline the question

B: Box the keywords

E : Eliminate the extra information

S : Solve and check the problem

By using the CUBES strategy, the student is able to break down the word problem into small, manageable parts. This blog post about the CUBES strategy explains everything you need to know about using this strategy with 2nd grade learners. You can download the CUBES math strategy chart FREEBIE here .

## 3. Draw a Picture to Solve Math Word Problems

A word problem is a math story. Visual learners may benefit from drawing a picture to solve a math word problem. No need to be an artist! Students can draw simple shapes to represent the items in the word problem.

Addition Word Problem Example: There are 21 purple butterflies and 8 pink butterflies in the garden. How many butterflies are there in all?

To solve this problem, a student would draw 21 purple butterflies (or dots/symbols to represent a butterfly), and 8 pink butterflies. Then count all the butterflies to get the answer.

Subtraction Word Problem Example: There are 21 butterflies in the garden. 8 fly away. How many butterflies are left?

To solve this word problem, students would again draw 21 butterflies. To show subtraction, put an X over 8 butterflies. How many remain?

This video does a great job of showing how to use pictures to solve a math word problem:

## 4. Use objects to solve a word problem

Use math manipulatives to solve word problems! 2nd grade learners will benefit from this visual, hands-on learning aid! Some math manipulatives that can be used to solve word problems include unifix cubes, base ten blocks, counters, erasers, tangrams, popsicle sticks – anything tactile that will help students visualize the problem will do! Also, here’s a list of some of our favorite math manipulatives . A variety of manipulatives can be printed from the Lucky Little Toolkit.

## 5. Write a number sentence

You’ve found the numbers. You know what operation to use. Now it’s time to show that work by writing a number sentence! Solve to find your answer. Need more practice with word problems? Check out the Spiral Math Review Freebie for leveled review!

I love the You Tube video that explains the strategy, however, the child’s name in the problem is Jayden and you say “Troy” has five more after solving the problem. Just a tad confusing for kids.

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## 4 Tips for Solving 2nd Grade Math Word Problems

Last Updated on August 31, 2021 by Thinkster

Math word problems are challenging for students at any age, but particularly for second graders who have barely mastered their reading skills. Becoming proficient in math word problems is crucial in 2nd grade because it sets children up for success in the grades to come. Fortunately, math word problems at this age are less complex than the ones they will see in later years, so you can implement the following common strategies to help your child become an expert . Here are some tips to help with these math problems.

## 1. Read the problem aloud

Because students this age read at varied levels, not every second-grader will fully understand a word problem on his first pass through. Reading the problem aloud can be quite helpful, especially with a child who hasn’t completely mastered reading. Of course, there will be times when a student won’t be allowed to speak (for example, during tests), but when at home working on word problems, encourage your child to read the story aloud and actually hear what the problem is asking. And for tests, even mouthing the words silently will give a student a better mental image of the problem.

## 2. Circle the numbers

Ultimately, every word problem will include the numbers necessary to arrive at an answer. Students should circle these numbers so they are easier to find during the solving process. If a number is spelled out, kids can circle the words and write the numeral above or near it so she is just dealing with digits. Once she devises a strategy to solve the problem, the numbers are already standing out for her to insert into whichever operation she’s using.

## 3. Look for keywords

Certain words give clues to what operation is being asked for, and second-grade math word problems are no exception. For example, total, sum, together , and how many all suggest addition; difference, how many more, take away , and fewer all point to subtraction. As your child learns these keywords and spots them in word problems, she will be able to arrive at a solution strategy more quickly.

## 4. Draw it out

If the structure and information of a word problem are too confusing, illustrating the problem in her own terms may help your child figure out the math and come up with an answer. Bar graphs, pie charts, tally marks, or whatever works for a particular student can do wonders toward solving a word problem. Even just writing out the numbers from the text again can help establish her own space and parameters that will make a solution easier to reach.

Do 2nd grade math word problems confuse your child? Check out our Thinkster math worksheets for some extra practice to help your child master math word problems .

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## Classroom Management

Classroom ideas, classroom community, teaching word problems in 2nd grade.

If you’re looking for a better way to teach word problems, and more importantly, want your students to be more successful in solving word problems, I’m here to help. Teaching word problems in 2nd grade doesn’t have to be a challenge.

## Why is teaching word problems in 2nd grade so hard?

When I first started teaching, I taught my students to use keywords, underline and circle, highlight and box…and yet, it didn’t help. They still didn’t know when to add and when to subtract.

And, my students didn’t understand or perform any better.

It didn’t help that I wasn’t consistently teaching or letting my students practice solving word problems.

Word problems have always been a source of contention for my students no matter what grade I taught (1st, 2nd, and 4th), and have always been something I’ve taught haphazardly as part of an adopted math curriculum.

Most math curriculums offer the following:

• 1 or 2 word problems at the end of each lesson, but don’t actually offer a way to teach students how to solve word problems
• 1 chapter on “problem solving”

And seriously, neither of those is helpful.

I wanted my students to get daily, strategic word problem practice.

And guess what? When I started teaching word problems in 2nd grade in a consistent, strategic way, my students were less frustrated, and much more proficient word problem solvers.

## So, what’s the solution?

Now, I follow a 4-day teaching plan, and assess on day 5.

I no longer teach key words or underlining, circling, highlighting, and/or boxing…instead, I teach my students to look for patterns in how word problems are structured…word problem situations.

In addition, I dedicate 5-10 minutes each day for word problem teaching and practicing.

## How do I know what to teach?

Honestly, no matter what I’m teaching this is where I start. I need to know exactly what the expectation is, so then I can help my students master it.

The Common Core standard for 2nd grade says:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.OA.A.1

• Use addition and subtraction within 100 to solve one- and two-step word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.

While many states no longer use the term “Common Core” many of their adopted standards are the same, or at least similar.

MAFS.2.OA.1.1 (Florida Standards)

• Use addition and subtraction within 100 to solve one- and two-step word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.

## So here’s what 2nd graders need to be able to solve:

• One-Step & Two-Step
• Put Together

When you look at what 2nd graders are supposed to do, it’s no wonder teaching word problems is so difficult, not to mention students actually getting the hang of them.

## How I teach word problems in 2nd grade:

At the beginning of the year, students are introduced to our word problem routine after the first couple of weeks of school.

I explain that word problems are like stories we have to read, and understand what’s going on in the story. We call these word problem situations.

Then, I teach students that there are 4 things they should always do when they solve a word problem:

• Write a Number Sentence
• I explain to students that I can’t hop inside their brains to see what they’re thinking, and if I don’t know what they’re thinking, I can’t help them become better word problem solvers.
• Students can draw a picture, use a fact family, base 10 blocks, and/or the standard algorithm.
• I look to see that the student has the correct answer.
• For example, instead of just saying “4,” my students write, “Cheyenne has 4 dogs.” This is important to connect math and writing, but also helps students check to see if their answer actually answers the question asked in the word problem.

Launching the word problem routine is all about modeling and routine. It doesn’t take long for students to get the hang of it.

I’ve done the hard work for you – I have 2nd grade word problems for the entire year, ready for you!

## What’s the 2nd grade word problem routine?

On Mondays, I introduce the word problem situation. I find it helpful to have students “act out” the situation. Use the example on the situation poster/anchor chart to show students the pattern. (I teach students that the underlined portions of the number sentence are pieces we know, while the square represents the unknown.)

Model and solve the practice word problem, and provide feedback to students.

For the next 3 days, we model and solve a word problem that has the same situation as Monday. So we’re not skipping around. This is very systematic.

Finally, on Fridays, students complete 2 word problems on their own following the same situation we’ve used all week.

For differentiation or extension, students can write a word problem on the back of their assessment that follows the same situation they learned that week. This is such a great way to see if students really understand the situation we learned that week.

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1. How to Teach Math Word Problems in 2nd Grade

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