Let’s face it. Most students hate word problems.
Now, add in TWO steps and math word problems instantly become that much more overwhelming.
Many students give up once they see more than 2 numbers in a problem.
Instead of getting impatient or frustrated with my students for giving up or feeling defeated about two step word problems, I tell them it’s actually a good thing! Normally, I’m met with some pretty hilarious facial expressions once I make that statement, but it IS a good thing!
I explain to my kiddos that when they see more than one number in a word problem it’s actually a good thing because an alarm bell should be going off in your head (yes we make the noise) to tell you this is a two step problem.
So, how do I get my kiddos from feeling defeated and overwhelmed to successfully solving two step word problems?
Well, like anything in education…it’s a PROCESS.
Teaching two step word problems requires lots of patience and practice mixed with a little PI-ZAZZ! Okay…I’ll admit, I added the PI-ZAZZ part!
Here are some simple tips, tricks, and strategies I use to teach two step word problems to my elementary students:
- When reading the word problem, we read each sentence at a time and underline the actual question.
- I remind them to ask this question: What are we trying to find? The part or the whole?
- A math word problem strategy that I teach is…
- We know anytime we are trying to find a part we subtract or divide.
- We know that anytime we are trying to find the whole we add or multiply.
- I use hand motions to teach part and whole.
- To show that we are missing a part, we start with holding our two fists together out in front of us and then pull one fist away as we say “If I’m missing a part, I subtract or divide.”
- To show we are missing the whole we start with two fists separated in front of us and then clasp our hands together to show that we are joining both parts. We say “If I’m missing the whole I add or multiply.”
- We also restate the question as a statement, Ex. How many sodas does Jason have now? Restate: Jason has ___ sodas now. It helps us stay focused on what we are looking for. We solve each sentence or piece of the problem one at a time.
- These two step word problem strategies are on a daily basis.
Students start the week with a printable packet. When I begin teaching two step word problems, I complete the problems with them to model my strategies and process. Then, we move to small groups. Finally, students will eventually complete the math word problems on their own. On Fridays we do a Quick Check to check for understanding. This ready-to-use resource is found in my Free Resource Library.
Hopefully the alarm bells have quieted down and our second, third, and fourth grade students will feel confident and ready to tackle two step math word problems!
What are your favorite math strategies to use in your elementary classroom? DM me @thatteachingspark on Instagram or tag me in a picture of your favorite math word problem strategies! I love connecting with fellow educators!