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How to Create Math Story Problems

Telling a story that involves multiplication or division will deepen your child's math understanding.
on May 11, 2018
 

When I ask a third grader to solve the problem "3 x 4" there usually isn’t much hesitation. The student is able to give me an answer quickly and feels confident about his answer. However, when I ask a student to tell me a math story that relates to that same equation, he usually struggles to come up with an appropriate story.

Your child might know her multiplication and division facts (that is, she's memorized that 3 x 4 = 12) and can solve word problems related to them. But when she's challenged to come up with her own story problem, she may be reluctant and unsure of her work. 

Creating a math story problem shows deep understanding of a specific topic. Your child successfully demonstrates their ability to internalize a concept, like multiplication, and then create a specific scenario that represents that concept. This requires an abstract comprehension and the ability to verbalize his true understanding.

When focusing on the topics of multiplication and division, children need to show understanding that multiplication is repeated addition and division is repeated subtraction. Both are describing equal groups and how the equal group is either increased or decreased.

When helping your child create a story problem it is important to give him context. It can be overwhelming for him to come up with a topic and create a math problem.  

For example, you might say, "Create a story problem using the fact “3 x 5 = ?” that is about a girl at the beach collecting shells." 

Your child could come up with: Sarah collected 3 buckets of shells at the beach. Each bucket had 5 shells in it.  How many shells did Sarah collect at the beach?”

Here are some scenarios you can use with your child for multiplication and/or division story problems:

  • Baseball cards in binders
  • Birds in trees
  • Legs on animals
  • Students sitting at tables
  • Cookies on plates
  • Fingers on hands
  • Wheels on cars/bikes
  • Pedals on flowers

No matter the scenario, your child’s understanding of multiplication and division will deepen when developing math story problems. Encourage her to draw out the story problem and to be creative!

Featured Photo Credit: © BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

About this blog

In the Learning Toolkit blog, get quick and easy tips on how to support your child’s learning at home. From arts and crafts activities to conducting science experiments, we offer simple and fun ways to support your learner’s development at every age and stage.

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