In PART 1 of Word Problems I went over my approach to teaching 1 and 2 step word problems involving addition and subtraction. In this post I cover multiplication, which is exponentially harder (pun intended – lay people see photo below).
As seen in PART 1, I color code the different parts of the problem: blue for the multiplication or division (rate), yellow for stand alone numbers, green for addition or subtraction, and orange for the unknown quantity.
To identify the multiplication or division parts, I focus on situations that involve groups of items, e.g. two cupcakes in every package or $5 in every lawn (for every lawn) as opposed to key words (as explained in PART 1). The students focus not on a single term such as “each” but on the situation. I use the groups of items as the structure for the equation, e.g., 5 x # lawns. The additional step in a two-step word problem can be connected within this structure, e.g., 12-9 in the top photo below.
Before working on the actual word problem handouts, I present the problems with a Google Jamboard to help flesh out the concept of multiplication as groups of items. Here is a link to the scaffolded handout.
After the Jamboard, I will use a scaffolded handout to help them unpack the structure. This is a scaffolded handout I use for 1 step multiplication word problems and the additional step, and show the additional step off to the side. This would be followed by problems on a typical worksheet as shown in excerpts above.
The problem below is a division problem. For division problems, I like to continue the focus on groups of items, in this case groups of wings. The difference is the number of items in a group is not given. This is a prompt for students to divide (which is how they will compute unit rate in the future). The division provides the main structure of the problem and the additional step can be attached, as is the case with 34 + 11 shown below. This way division is built on their prior knowledge of how to do word problems and they learn one additional step.