By Raphael Kohlberg

For many struggling math students, word problems are their worst enemy. Some kids have a hard enough time doing simple addition and subtraction. Then, the teacher decides to throw in some word problems requiring students to determine which operation is needed.

But don’t worry: word problems can be painless. During the summer months, help your child learn to solve word problems so he or she won’t be stressed out when school starts back up in the fall.

Here is a sample word problem and a script you can use to help your child solve it.

Beau had 80 Pokemon cards. He gave 35 of them to his friend Sawyer. How many cards does Beau have left?

Step 1: Before your child even picks up a pencil, have him or her read the entire problem aloud.

Step 2: Help your child identify the question being asked. Have your child underline the question. In the problem above, the question is How many cards does Beau have left? The question usually can be found at the end of the word problem.

Step 3: Have your child identify all of the information in the problem. Information consists of numbers and labels. For example, in the problem above the information is 80 Pokemon cards, 35 of them. (Explain to your child that them refers to Pokemon cards.) Have your child circle the information in the problem. Then, look at what is circled and determined if it is important in solving the problem. Cross out the unnecessary information. (Many problems will include unnecessary information to trick you.)

Step 4: Decide which operation much be used to solve the problem. Teach your child the key words to determine this. The key word left tells us that the above problem is a subtraction problem. (See below for more key words for addition and subtraction word problems.)

Step 5: Solve the problem. Make sure your child labels his or her answer. For example, instead of just writing 45, your child should write 45 cards. (This is very important on standardized tests.)

80 cards

• 35 cards

45 cards

Step 6: Have your child check his or her answer to see if it makes sense.  (45+35 = 80).

Here are some other key words to help your child determine when to add or subtract.

• Total
• Sum
• Plus
• And
• Increase

Subtraction Key Words:

• Remain
• Decrease
• Bigger
• Less Than
• Difference
• Remainder