Easy Trick for Kids Who Hate Math Word Problems

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Do you have a child who struggles with word problems in math?  Even kids who quickly solve equations can get stuck with word problems.

One easy trick for kids who hate word problems or struggle with them, is to act them out. You can use objects or mime movements to create the problem. You can also teach kids to visualize acting out word problems.

It sounds simple but there’s science behind it. Multi-sensory learning, using two or more senses to process information, helps the brain learn new information and recall it faster for future use.

In a recent study done at the University of Chicago, two group of third graders were given a word problem about feeding fish to hippos and alligators at the zoo. One group mimed giving out the fish to pretend animals while the other group read through the problem twice before solving it.  

The group that acted out the problem did better. Acting it out helped them figure out the problem in their head. You can read more about this study at Mind Shift. This article also details how movement has proven to be a valuable component for learning new information in a number of studies on how children learn.   


Acting out or visualizing math word problems works well for visual and kinesthetic learners, or any child who finds math word problems challenging. 

Here’s an example of a math word problem that can be acted out or visualized:

Farmer Sam plants 8 rows of carrots with 7 carrots in each row? How many carrots did he plant all together?

Use objects to represent the carrots or direct your child to visualize themselves as the farmer, planting the rows of carrots.

So simple. And it works.  This has taken the frustration out of word problems in our house. I hope it will help you, too. 

For more math with movement:

math activities for kids

multiplication table

place value games 2nd grade 3rd grade 4th grade 5th grade

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math word problems