Decoding Math Word Problems

Adding and subtracting might seem like a snap compared to the more complicated concepts your child will be introduced to in 3rd grade math. Multiplication and division — not to mention fractions and decimals! — can be daunting at first, so teachers will introduce word problems to translate all those tricky symbols into real-world experiences. Trouble is, some students are better with numbers than the reading comprehension skills word problems demand. Help your 3rd grade math student make the leap from story to equation by pointing out how math factors in to their everyday life.

  • Extra Fractions, Hold the Anchovies
    The next family pizza night, use the helpful pie shape to sharpen your 3rd grade math student’s fraction knowledge. If her hungry tween-age brother eats 5/8 of the pizza, how many slices are left for the rest of the family to split? Have the pizza cut into thinner slices for more advanced equations. 
  • Supermarket Division
    A visit to the grocery store is always a prime opportunity to point out everyday math concepts, and many 3rd grade math word problems use shopping as their basis. Tell your little shopper that you have allotted six dollars to buy avocados to make guacamole, and each avocado costs two dollars. How many will you be able to buy? Remind them the lesson later as they scoop the results up on a tortilla chip. 
  • Wii Love Subtraction
    Your 3rd grader probably loves video games, and they bring out their natural competitive instinct. If your child scored a 22 on a Legend of Zelda challenge, and you only scored 16, how many points did your child beat you by? Your child can celebrate their six-point victory as you celebrate their subtraction skills. 
  • Mixed Berries
    Once they master simple word problems that use only one math concept, introduce a situation that will call for mixed equations. If you are picking strawberries in your garden and your child picks 10 and you pick 12, but three weren’t ripe and they ate two, how many will you be taking with you on a picnic? 


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