Getting excited about math word problems

Whenever I introduce math word problems in my classroom, the reaction is at first subdued. Lots of words on a page requiring reading and comprehension, numbers included, and usually the problem itself is not something interesting: some girl or boy is buying a lot of watermelons in a store and then mysteriously losing them on their way to their house. Who would be excited?

Turning math problems into something children can be excited about is easier than you think. Add some child friendly props, an opportunity for students to prepare their word problem skit and a “stage”. Suddenly math problems take on an interdisciplinary nature that would have otherwise been lost had we done them in the traditional paper and pencil way: children are reading, having to comprehend what they read, needing to determine the meaning of words and phrases from context, explaining their understanding to an audience, engaging an audience and transcribing their word problems into mathematical equations showing the correct answer. With the one very important added benefit: they want to do it again and again!

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