Strategies to Solve Math Story Problems

One of my most favorite math tutoring resources – hands down! – is Laura Candler's Daily Math Puzzler program.  While originally created for classroom use, I've found the program to be beneficial in a tutoring setting.  There are four levels of math word problems.  Each level comes complete with directions on how to use and implement the program.  I love teaching my students the problem solving strategies.  Some of which are looking for clue words, acting it out, drawing a picture, or guessing and checking.  One of my favorite strategies to practice is acting it out.  Because I lack extra students, we use LEGO mini figures to help us solve problems like these.  Here is my favorite act it out problem:

“Four boys were standing in line to wait for movie tickets.  Tom was at the front of the line.  Bob was not at the back.  Ramon was between Sam and Bob.  Who was at the back of the line?”


Problem Solving Strategy: Act It Out!

I let my students begin by giving each mini figure a name.  Then we start working through the problem and acting it out using these cool little guys.  My students do awesome when they get to use these LEGO mini figures.  Using mini figures makes this math problem a kinesthetic experience. The strategies that Laura uses in her program have really helped my students.  I keep a list of the strategies handy so we can refer to them again and again when we are working on the classroom assignments too.

Other Strategies Included in the Daily Math Puzzlers Program:

1.  Act it Out

2.  Draw a Picture

3.  Make a Chart

4.  Write a Number Sentence

5.  Find a Pattern

6.  Find Clue Words

7.  Guess and Check

Daily Math Puzzlers has Reduced My Prep Time

In a tutor setting, I have loved using Daily Math Puzzlers because it has cut down on my prep time significantly.  We work on these each time they come in addition to any homework they bring.  I like that we are consistently working toward strengthening their problem solving skills.

Organizing the Activities and Record Sheets

I printed all the levels, A-D (grades 2-7) and put them in a 3.5 inch binder with dividers for each level.  Each page was placed in a page protector and my students use dry erase markers to work on the problems.  I have them work independently on the front side, then we review their work together.  I record it on the sheet Laura provided and then we move onto the back side.



After getting several students working with me towards the end of the year, I needed a quicker way to mark where each student was in the program.  A trip to the store was in order!  After browsing through all my clip options, I settled on Clip-Tabs.  They are heavy duty clips with tags on the tops of them.  I let my students choose a color and we wrote their names on them.  I clip the sides of the page that they need to work on the next time I see them.  I found it easier to flip open the binder and use the clip to return us to our correct spot.


Thank you Laura for creating a resource that is easy to use, effective, and helpful to my students.  I think you'll enjoy using these with your students in your classroom or with your tutoring students!

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