Systems Word Problems Scaffolded

Word problems are challenging for many students. Writing a system of equations to model a word problem has unique challenges. This post provides details about a scaffolded handout with color coding can unpack the process for generating the appropriate system of equations.

Unpacking the Word Problem

A mistake I have witnessed over the years is students mistakenly using given values for both equations. In the problem below, students are far more likely to generate the equation for the yellow part: 2x + 3y = 24. The challenge is that the blue part has only 1 number so students will often write 2x + 3y = 10, using the dollar quantities a second time.

By highlighting the two parts of the word problem with given values, the students can match parts of the word problem with respective equations. The scaffolding separates the parts, and the color allows for matching.


The rest of the problem is prior knowledge with the students using one of the methods for solving. The scaffolding continues to lower the task demand by reducing the need to remember all the steps. This allows them to focus more bandwidth on the new steps.

Access to Handout

Here is a link to the handout.

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