Solving 2nd-Grade Math Word Problems

Solving second-grade math word problems is easy…when you’re not a teacher. For many teachers, getting students to understand the intricacies of 2nd-grade math word problems is a long, daunting process. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. It can be fun and easy. What is the best part? You don’t need a genie or a fairy godmother to pull off this magic trick.

So, how can you teach math for second graders seamlessly? Let’s find out.

Why Are Second-Grade Math Word Problems So Hard?

You’re probably wondering why students find it so hard to learn? Well, when it comes to math word problems, 2nd-grade students may be stuck for several reasons. Here are a few of them:

They don’t understand the basic concepts behind the word problem

A foundational concept backs every word problem. This could be addition, subtraction, or multiplication. Let’s take a look at this word problem, for instance:

John is a farmer who owns an apple farm. On Monday, he harvested 23 baskets of apples. His wife also harvested 15 baskets of apples, while his daughters harvested 8 baskets. How many baskets of apples were gathered altogether?

The mathematical concept behind this word problem is addition. To find a solution, students must add all the harvested baskets of apples and arrive at a total number. If they haven’t learned how to add up numbers, they certainly won’t be able to solve this word problem.

Thus, students should learn the foundational mathematical concepts before starting to solve second-grade math problems effectively.

There is not enough information on how to solve word problems

A standard math curriculum certainly includes word problems. However, there’s an essential factor missing from the equation. These curriculums tend to gloss over word problems, offering only a brief mention and a few exercises. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to actively teach children how to solve them. 

If you want your grade 2 students to understand word problems and the ways to solve them fully, you should go beyond the surface and actively teach them consistently. This could mean ditching the standard curriculum and adopting a more comprehensive version that goes into detail about strategies for solving word problems. This way, it’d be easier for your students to learn and solve word problems on their own without turning to you for help.

How to Teach to Solve 2nd-Grade Word Problems?

So, now we know what the actual problems are. What’s the solution? How can you effectively teach math word problems to 2nd-grade students without breaking into a sweat? If you have difficulties, here are a few tips that every teacher needs in their arsenal:

Go over the foundational concepts first

As we mentioned earlier, understanding the foundational concepts behind each word problem is a key to solving it. Thus, before teaching second-grade word problems, go over each mathematical concept first. Ensure that your students understand how to add, multiply, subtract, and divide numbers before diving headlong into word problems.

You could give students a few exercises for practicing. Once you’re certain they know the basics well enough, you can then move on to the next tip.

Read the problem aloud together

When it comes to math problems, grade 2 students may have difficulties caused by individual reading abilities. Children at this age tend to have varied reading levels. While some may be able to read at the speed of light, others may not have completely mastered the art of reading just yet. Thus, students who fall into the latter group may not understand a word problem on their first try.

Reading the word problem aloud can be quite helpful for students. This activity helps create a mental image of the problem and lets kids understand what needs to be done. This way, they’d be able to move on to the next step – solving the problem.

Circle the numbers

Every word problem contains numbers necessary for coming to a solution. Let’s take a quick look at this example:

Tracy is a bus driver who picks up school children. On Monday, she picked up 15 schoolchildren. On Tuesday, she picked up 20 kids. On Wednesday, she picked up 2x the number of schoolchildren she picked up on Monday. How many children has Tracy picked up so far?

In this word problem, the numbers necessary to give an answer are 15, 20, and 2×15. Circling the numbers makes them easier to find and helps to work out the rest of the equation. It’s akin to pointing out the tools kids need for an operation. Once students find the important numbers and sift out the unnecessary information, it’d be easier for them to do the rest.

Point out the keywords

Word problems always contain certain keywords that provide clues as to what the solution could be. For instance, words like “altogether,” “sum,” or “together” hint at addition. 

Therefore, it’s important to teach your students how to spot keywords and clues in word problems. Once they do this, they’d be able to arrive at a solution much more quickly.

Of course, some word problems are more complex and may not offer clear clues. However, by re-reading the problem carefully, students would be able to figure out what is required of them.

Practice daily 

We’ve all heard the famous quote “practice makes perfect.” This quote applies to second-grade math word problems as well. The more frequently your students practice, the higher their chances of becoming whizzes at word problems.

Final Thoughts

Teaching word problems to second-grade kids isn’t the easiest task in the world. However, this challenge can be tackled in most cases by dealing with it from the root. Ensure that your students understand the basic mathematical concepts and practice consistently.

By utilizing the teaching strategies outlined above, you’ll definitely make learning easier for everyone involved.