Kindergarten math word problems

Is it time to introduce kindergarten math word problems?

Math word problems use sentences to describe a mathematical problem rather than numerals. At the kindergarten level, math concepts are mostly taught through play, which is supplemented by purposeful teaching. Here are some engaging ways to introduce kindergarten math word problems to your child that go beyond just worksheets!

Let’s face it: Worksheets aren’t the most exciting way for little ones to learn. Sure, they can be fun sometimes, but why stop there! Try taking your at-home math up a notch by combining worksheets with some of these fun ways to teach math.

Where To Begin?

By the end of kindergarten, your child should be able to count to 10 and to complete basic addition and subtraction with quantities up to 10. They will also learn how to subitize (count objects in groups rather than individually), pattern, measure, and will have basic financial literacy, among other skills.

When you’re thinking about introducing math word problems to your little one, keep these longer-term goals in mind! In the beginning, establishing a solid number sense is the most important thing.

Keep it Simple

Math word problems can be tricky for some learners! Take it slow, take it easy, and remember that your kindies are learning math and literacy at the same time. That’s a lot for little ones to take in! Also, make sure that you create problems with sums or differences no higher than 10.

Here are some examples of Kindergarten math word problems:

  • There are two fish in the pond. Three more fish swim into the pond. How many fish are in the pond now?
  • Daisy has three toy cars and Bruno has three toy cars. How many cars to they have if they put them together?
  • There are three jackets in the cubby. Everett puts on one jacket and goes outside. How many jackets are left in the cubby?

Solving Math Word Problems

Here are the steps to take when working through math word problems

  1. Read the problem
    1. Find the important information and figure out whether you are adding or subtracting
  2. Circle the numbers
  3. Underline the important words
    1. Important words give us clues to help create the problem. If you see “in all,” “combined,” “in total,” “more than,” etc., you are adding. If you see “left,” “take away,” “fewer,” etc., you are subtracting.
  4. Re-create the problem with manipulatives or drawings
    1. Physical and visual aids provide deeper understanding
  5. Write the number sentence
    1. This is where you translate from a word problem to an equation: 2+2=4
  6. Solve!

Hands-On Activities

Math can be a confusing subject! Integrating manipulatives into your child’s learning can help them understand their math word problems in a much deeper way by letting them touch and see the equations they are working on.

Manipulatives don’t have to be fancy, either. After reading a word problem with them, demonstrate the numbers with whatever you have on hand – counters, dinosaurs, beads, anything works!

Also, try working through a problem with your child first and then letting them take the lead. Give them ownership over their work!

For example

  • Read the problem: “Two ducks were swimming in the pond, then two more joined. How many ducks are swimming in the pond all together?”
  • Circle the important numbers (“two and two”)
  • Underline the important words (“more joined” this tells us we’re adding and “all together”)
  • Count it out. Ask them to get two items and place them on the table, then add two more
  • Write the problem as a number sentence: “2 + 2 = ____”
  • Solve it! Get them to tell you how many items there are in total and finish filling in their number sentence

Get Crafty!

Most kindergarteners love crafts, so why not combine art and math? Incorporating crafts into math word problems also helps them visualize their equations.

Research and Play have some cute and simple activities for the kindergarten level. Their work is a great example of easy at-home math crafts that you can use to support your child’s learning.

Keep It Real

Using real-life examples is a great way to get your children excited about math word problems while creating connections to the world around them. Whenever you can, include them in real-world math-based examples.

For example, when you are writing your grocery list ask them questions like “How many apples do you think we should buy this week?” or “We need three boxes of cupcake mix. Right now we only have one. How many more do we need to buy?”

Maybe you’re handing out invitations for a birthday party. You could ask your child “We started with ten cards and now we have five. How many did we give away?”.

Go Outside

If the weather is right, you can also take your learning outside! This way, your little ones can burn off some energy while incorporating math word problems.

There are lots of ways you could do this with your children. For example, perhaps your yard attracts lots of birds. Count how many you each see, share your answers, then ask your child “I saw three birds and you saw two. How many birds did we see in total?”

You could also get the chalk out and draw a number line or hopscotch game. Have your little one start on number one, then roll dice to see how many jumps they add or take away. Turn it into a word problem by saying “Jenny started on one, then had to jump forwards three times! Which square is she on now?”

Be sure to say the number sentence out loud with them at the end so they understand how this makes an equation! In this case, it would be 1+3=4.

Use Technology

There are a ton of online math resources that will let your kindergarteners practice math word problems. Here are two examples!

  • IXL is a curriculum based online platform for Math and English with fun and interactive online games
  • ABCYA is another interactive online resource great for teaching math word problems

Kindergarten Math Word Problem Worksheets

Worksheets have their time and place, too! If your little one is in school during the day, I wouldn’t rely too heavily on this type of activity. But, if they’re on a break or aren’t in the formal school system, then I would definitely encourage you to try some worksheets out with them!

By reading the problem and working through it on paper, your children will be exposed to math problems the same way they will work through them at school. Reading and writing are also important parts of math literacy.

Here are two resources you can check out for examples

  • Education.com is a massive online database of teaching resources. This link will take you kindergarten math word problems specifically!
  • Simply Kinder put together a five-page freebie package for kindergarten level math word problems that I simply adore! All of the bases are covered here as your children read, cut, and paste to solve problems

DIY Math Problems

Solving math problems is fun but creating them is even better! Once your child has grasped a solid understanding of how to work through math word problems, try challenging them to create their own!

Whether they want to write or craft math problems, or they want to create their own math game, encouraging them to be creative will be fun for both of you.

Elke Crosson

Elke Crosson has her BA in International Relations with a minor in Spanish at UBC (Okanagan). She is currently in her second year of the Master of Teaching program at the University of Toronto, with dreams of becoming an elementary-level teacher.

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