Helping Your Child Master 5th Grade Math Word Problems

Last Updated on August 31, 2021 by Thinkster

By the fifth grade, most students have accumulated an impressive array of math knowledge, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and measurements. Subsequently, 5th grade math word problems take what kids have learned and apply it to new challenges. After all, a word problem is simply a real-world situation that requires math. These situations are the answer to “I’ll never use this in real life.” You can further exemplify this by introducing your child to the percentage of sales, etc. 

Yet, many children struggle with 5th grade math word problems -even kids who are proficient at the underlying math operations and concepts. But word problems are not going away: Students will encounter them on a homework worksheet, on standardized tests, and in real life. The ability to solve a simple word problem is imperative to their development.

Take a look at the sample math word problem below and follow our 5 tips to help your child solve 5th grade math word problems:

Isabella owns a taco stand. Every day, she sells 50 tacos for a $1 each, 30 burritos for $2 each, and 15 chimichangas for $3 each. She doesn’t work Sundays or Mondays. What food will bring in the most total money per week?

Identify the Numbers

First, ask your fifth-grader to extract the numbers from the math problem. Encourage him or her to write these numbers out separately or even draw them if it helps. With the sample problem, we get:

  • She sells 50 tacos a day.
  • Tacos are $1 each.
  • She sells 30 burritos a day.
  • Burritos are $2 each.
  • She sells 15 chimichangas a day.
  • Chimichangas are $3 each.
  • She works 5 days a week (knowing there are 7 days in a week and she takes Sundays and Mondays off).

Determine Which Functions the Problem Is Asking For

Next, direct your student to figure out what function is required. That is the next step in determining the correct answer. Ask your child to look for key words that offer hints as to whether addition, subtraction, multiplication, or another function can be applied to the problem. In this case, “total” and “each” are giveaways that you will be multiplying. Furthermore, “most” implies you are comparing numbers.

Key words or “clues” like these are the foundation to figuring out basic word problems. This may also be a good time to assess your child’s reading comprehension beyond just mathematics as you observe them work out the problem.

Cross Out Unnecessary Words

If all the verbiage is confusing to your child, it can simply be crossed out so that just the important facts of the word problem remain. Here, the first sentence about Isabella’s taco stand can be struck through. 

Come Up with an Equation(s)

With the sample problem, because you have to determine which food brings in the most money per week, 3 equations will be required before deciding which is the greatest. Ask your child to look at the numbers and functions they’ve identified (and maybe wrote down separately) to arrive at the following equations:

  • 50 tacos, $1 each, and 5 days becomes 50x1x5
  • 30 burritos, $2 each, and 5 days becomes 30x2x5
  • 15 chimichangas, $3 each, and 5 days becomes 15x3x5

Solve and Check Your Work

After your child solves the problem (the answer to our sample is burritos, which took in $300 a week compared with $250 for tacos and $225 for chimichangas), challenge him or her to check the work. In this case, dividing the $300 earned on burritos by 5 (days) and 2 (dollars) will produce 20 burritos, just as the original word problem stated. Besides confirming the answer, checking the work makes the problem-solving process more understandable.

Students will encounter math word problems throughout their lives.

Kid working on math problem

Helping your child deconstruct a variety of real world math problems will help them gain math confidence in the short-term and give them a skill that will last a lifetime. And confidence in mathematics can translate to other areas of their academic and personal life. If your child is struggling with math, they no doubt feel less confident, especially if friends seem to grasp math facts more easily. Children are constantly comparing and measuring themselves against their peers – seeing how they rank. It’s easy for a child to underestimate their own value based on a few quizzes or tests with poor grades. Understanding that with a bit of help, they can become math superstars will give them the boost they need. Think about how great you feel when you finally accomplish a goal you’ve set for yourself. Give your child that same feeling.

Learning how to solve word problems not only helps with a math skill, it also helps your child in other subjects, including English, history, logical reasoning, and even standardized tests where your child will be asked to understand a passage and determine which parts are the most important. Your child can follow the same advice as in a complex word problem, cross out the non-important phrases to get to the main point. 

Does your child struggle with 5th grade math word problems? How is your child’s reading comprehension? This too, can play a significant role in understanding and solving word problems.

Talk to your child’s teacher to see what they think the problem could be. Is it reading comprehension, or an inability to break the problem down into its elements? Is it a failure to grasp a concept? Confronting the root of the problem will equip you when you try to find help for your child. Different programs focus on different areas for your child. But be sure there are individual assessments in any tutoring facility you evaluate. Sticking your child into a tutoring class that is a one-size-fits-all option may result in more frustration, not less. Set your student up for success and don’t get discouraged.

And remember, you are not alone, but math doesn’t have to be a subject your child will continue to struggle with. Instead, you can turn it around by adopting the Thinkster math tutoring program, where our experts are carefully screened and our program is tailored to your student at the time they need the help and how they need the help. 

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Helping Your Child Master 5th Grade Math Word Problems
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Helping Your Child Master 5th Grade Math Word Problems
5th grade math word problems take what kids have learned and apply it to new challenges. After all, a word problem is simply a real-world situation that requires math.
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Thinkster Math
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