Common Challenges in Solving 2nd Grade Math Word Problems

Last Updated on August 31, 2021 by Thinkster

By second grade, most students have a strong enough grasp on reading to be able to begin solving basic word problems. When word problems are introduced in math class, some students are thrown for a loop. If your student is struggling with 2nd grade math word problems, these three problems might be the reason.

Reading Challenges

For 2nd grade math word problems, students must employ both their knowledge of math and their ability to read. Second graders are still very young readers, and some will still struggle with basic reading. If they cannot read the problem, they cannot solve it. If your child’s reading is weak, then this may be the foundation of the problem he is having with word problems.

Inability to Determine the Operation

For strong readers, making the switch from the written word to a math problem can also be a challenge. These young readers can read and comprehend the words, but they cannot tell what they are supposed to do with the words they read.

For students who have this type of struggle, teaching some basic strategies can help. For example, tell the students to follow the C.U.B.E. method. This is:

  • C – Circle the numbers
  • U – Underline clue words
  • B – Box the question
  • E – Eliminate unnecessary information

Using this method, the student will first identify the important things by circling numbers and underlining clue words, such as “add” or “more than.” Many students will be able to solve the problem once they can see these important details. However, this strategy goes a step further for those who can’t. It also asks them to box the question, so they know what they are supposed to be doing, and then eliminate, or cross out, unnecessary information. They are left with the bare bones that should tell them exactly what to do.

Poor Knowledge of Clue Words

Strategies like the C.U.B.E. method only work if the student knows clue words well. Clue words are words used in 2nd grade math word problems that show the student what they are supposed to do. In second grade, these are fairly simple, and are divided into addition and subtraction terms. Here are some common terms:

  • Addition: Plus, added to, sum, in all, total, together, increased by
  • Subtraction: Minus, difference, more than, take away, are not, how much more, fewer, have left

If your child is a strong reader, understands the C.U.B.E. method and is still having problems with story problems, consider a review of these clue words. They may be the missing piece of the second grade story problems puzzle.

Consider Digital Tutoring

If in spite of these strategies, you find that your child is still struggling with second-grade story problems, or if you want to ensure that she has the best support for her growing understanding of story problems, consider investing in tablet-based tutoring. Thinkster Math offers a tutoring option that you can do in the comfort of your own home with just your tablet, yet with the help of certified teachers. This could be the tool your child needs to overcome the struggles caused by 2nd grade math word problems.

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Common Challenges in Solving 2nd Grade Math Word Problems
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Common Challenges in Solving 2nd Grade Math Word Problems
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If your child is struggling with 2nd grade math word problems, these might be one of the reasons. Find out how you can help them overcome this.
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Thinkster Math
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Kumar Thiagarajan

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