How to Teach Word Problem Solving Equations to the Third Grade

Word problems don't have to derail a student's self-confidence in his or her math ability. Teaching a strategy to attack this type of math problem will arm the student with a fail-safe way to approach them. Once the student knows the secret code to crack a word problem, these types of math problems will never get the best of them again. Easy-to-remember acronyms, such as TINS, help students mentally keep their place when solving word problems. TINS stands for think, information, number sentence and solution sentence, which are the steps needed to solve a word problem correctly. Before beginning lessons in solving the word problems, make sure the students know the vocabulary common to different operations. Encourage drawing the problem and using counters, such as beans or poker chips, if needed. Once the process is taught and has been practiced, let students teach the class how to solve a word problem. This will help reinforce learning for everyone.


    • 1

      Think about what the problem is asking. Draw a picture of the question. For instance, in the problem "Molly has 10 beans. Sam gave her three more. How many beans does Molly have in all?", the student would draw Molly with 10 beans, a plus sign and then Sam giving her three more.

    • 2

      Decide what operation should be used. Be sure to teach the students key phrases to look for within word problems that will help them figure out the correct operation. Phrases such as "in all," "altogether," or "total" indicate addition. Subtraction problems will have words or phrases such as "how many more," "were left" and "difference between." "Times," "every" and "at this rate" all indicate multiplication. Division is indicated when a student sees the word "each" in a word problem.

    • 3

      Underline the important information within the problem and cross out irrelevant information. In the problem "Molly has 10 beans. Sam gave her three more. How many beans does Molly have in all?", the student would underline 10 beans, three more and the phrase "in all."

    • 4

      Write a number sentence using the underlined information. A number sentence is the technical term for a math problem that is written in numbers. "10 + 3 =" is a number sentence for the problem about Molly and the beans.

    • 5

      Work the problem. Some students, especially young children or children with disabilities, may need to use counters to get the answer.

    • 6

      Write the solution sentence. The solution sentence is the answer written out in word form. "Molly has 13 beans in all" is the solution sentence for the example problem. It answers the question completely. Simply writing the number 13 is not a correct solution sentence because the reader has no idea what 13 stands for. It could be 13 of anything. Make sure your students are precise and clear when they answer their math word problems.

    • 7

      Check for plausibility. The students should ask themselves if the answer seems plausible or reasonable. If a student comes up with the answer of 31 beans for the Molly math problem example, help them understand why that answer is not reasonable. If it is not reasonable, then the answer is probably wrong. Have them redo the problem to double check.

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