Word problems are used in an attempt to address conceptual understanding. Often the problems are diminished to following a mere algorithm. For example, The cookie and tadpole problems are reduced to identify key words such as “total” and “left” (see photo below). I suggest a concept first approach. Show or provide hands on or visuals (you can cut out the cookies and tadpoles for hands on) and engage the student in the concept of adding and subtracting before introducing word problems. Develop this conceptual, intuitive understanding so the words and situations in the word problem are more concrete to them.
New Approach to Word Problems