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Lesson Plans
Multistep Word Problems
3rd–5th Grade
Objectives

CCSS Math: Operations & Algebraic Thinking
  • 3.OA.D.8: Solve two-step word problems using the four operations. Represent these problems using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity. Assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies including rounding.
  • 4.OA.A.3: Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole-number answers using the four operations, including problems in which remainders must be interpreted. Represent these problems using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity. Assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies including rounding.
Materials Needed


Preparation

Print out a copy of the Tim’s Yard Work flyer and the Neighborhood Jobs reproducible for each student in your class. (You can also display the flyer on a document camera.)



Introduction

  1. Instruct students to listen very carefully to the following story problem:
    • Mr. Smith is driving a bus. At first, the bus has no passengers. At the first stop, 10 passengers get onto the bus. At the second stop, 2 passengers get off the bus. Then 4 passengers board the bus. At the third stop, half the passengers get off the bus.
  2. Pause for a few seconds. Then ask, “Now...what is the name of the bus driver?” Most students will likely react with surprise at this question, but a few will remember that you stated who was driving the bus at the beginning of the story problem. Affirm that the name of the bus driver is Mr. Smith.
  3. Ask students to raise their hands if they were calculating the number of passengers getting on and off the bus. Explain that, although this story problem was a riddle with a surprising twist at the end, those with their hands raised were actually calculating a multistep math problem that involved addition, subtraction and even division.
  4. Point out that this exercise is also a good example of why it is helpful to read the whole problem first in order to find out what information is needed to answer the question.


Procedure

  1. Explain to students that, like the story problem you just read aloud, many math questions involve having to perform multiple math steps in order to find the final answer.
  2. Tell students you are going to reread the bus story problem, but this time, you will ask them to help you find out how many passengers are on the bus at the end of the problem.
  3. Invite student volunteers to help you act out the problem as you write each step on a whiteboard or chart paper. First, ask one student to play the role of the “bus driver” in the problem. (If desired, give this student a cardboard or posterboard bus prop to hold.)
  4. Reread each step of the story problem above, inviting student volunteers to act out each step as follows:
    • At first, the bus has no passengers. At the first stop, 10 passengers get onto the bus. (Have 10 students stand up and join the “bus driver” at the front of the room. Then write: 0 + 10 = 10.)
    • At the second stop, 2 passengers get off the bus. (Have 2 of the 10 passengers return to their seats. Then write: 10 2 = 8.)
    • Then 4 passengers board the bus. (Invite 4 new volunteers to join the group at the front of the room on the “bus.” Then write: 8 + 4 = 12.)
    • At the third stop, half the passengers get off the bus. (Have 6 of the 12 remaining passengers return to their seats. Then write: 12 2 = 6.)
  5. Finally, ask, “How many passengers are left?” (6)
  6. Point to the steps that you wrote down on the board to show that you used addition, subtraction and division to solve the problem. Explain that, since this was a multistep problem, it was helpful to break it down into smaller, simpler math problems to solve.


Guided Practice

  1. Tell students you would like to practice solving multistep math problems together.
  2. Give each student a copy of the Tim’s Yard Work flyer and the Neighborhood Jobs reproducible.
  3. Direct students to look at the flyer. Point out that Tim charges a different rate for each job that he does around his neighborhood.
  4. Read through the first problem together, and ask students to help determine what information is needed to find the answer and what steps should be taken. (Find out how much Tim charges for 2 hours of weeding and how much Tim charges for 1 hour of watering; add the numbers to find out how much he gets paid for both jobs.)
  5. Have students work in pairs to answer problems 2 and 3.
  6. Discuss the answers, inviting students to share what steps they used to solve the problems.


Independent Practice

  1. Have students complete problems 46 on their own.
  2. Remind students to read through each question first and decide how to break the problem into steps in order to find the answer.


Extension Activity

For early finishers, or for an extra challenge, encourage students to write new multistep word problems together based on the flyer and trade problems.


the 3rd–5th Grade lesson plan. (Includes all printable materials.)
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