Tag Archives: Teaching Word Problems

Making Word Problems More Engaging, Part Three

Making Word Problems More Engaging, Part Three

This is my last post in the series; Making Word Problems More Engaging.

Creating analogies for students to understand addition and subtraction is important. Whether you use Trevon, Bobby, Jada, and Maya, or come up with your own characters is not important. What is important is giving students a complete conceptual understanding of addition and subtraction.

We have looked at Word Problems for Change Plus/Change Minus and Decomposing/Composing, which are two different situations that represent addition and subtraction. (Click on the situation to read the post about it.)

The DifferenceThe last situation we need to discuss is Comparison. Kids know how to compare. We make comparisons very naturally and begin doing so at a young age. (You can read more about this in my post on Teaching Addition and Subtraction Part Three.) For now it is important for students to see different ways to look at the Comparison situation.

The comparison situation isn’t taught in the Common Core Standards until 1st grade (1.OA.A), but using this situation is a great way to challenge Kindergarteners. Remember, seeing the third quantity, “the difference,” takes time, but seeing the difference is critical for students’ understanding and ability to communicate about the comparison situation.

Comparing Numbers Phase ThreeYou may want to pull out the work mat for Comparing Numbers Phase three and have students use it to hold the objects for the word problems below. It will trigger students’ past experiences with comparisons and help them make connections.



Here are the four scenes for Comparison. I have used color to distinguish sets of pencils and flowers. I just printed them on two different colors of card stock.

Bees and Grasshoppers         Insects

Pencils         Pencils

Crabs         Crabs

Flowers1         Flowers

Want to challenge your students? Give your students numbers like 1, 4, and 5, then ask them to put them in the correct blanks to make the stories true. Most students will use a guess and check method, but it would be a different way to use the word problems and make the students think about what each blank represents, either the 1st number, the 2nd number, or the difference.

In this series I wanted to give you some tools to help engage students in word problems and understand addition and subtraction. Remember, good stories engage us. I’m sure there are a few very imaginative students in every class; harness their imaginations for math! They won’t know what has hit them because chances are they probably had math stereotyped as just numbers.

What is your favorite math story? Where do you see Comparison Word Problems in the real world?

Read the entire Making Word Problems More Engaging series here.

Making Word Problems More Engaging, Part One

Making Word Problems More Engaging, Part One

As I watched my daughter Bethany do her homework last night I had an Aha Moment. She complains almost every day that she has addition and subtraction homework. Apparently, she does not have her mother’s love of math. (I’m working on that.) Her paper had simple numeric addition and subtraction, and she decided that she… Continue Reading