2nd Grade Math Help: How to Solve Story Problems

You'll probably have to complete story problems in most math classes that you take, and it's never too early to start practicing. Read on to find out how to solve 2nd grade story problems, then try out your skills on the sample problems.

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Methods for Solving 2nd Grade Math Story Problems

Math story problems combine language arts with math. You'll use your reading comprehension skills in order to figure out what kind of math problem the story is asking you to solve. Here are a few different methods you could try. You may find that some of these work better for certain types of math problems than others.

Rephrase the Problem

To better understand the problem, first try rephrasing it in a way that makes sense to you. Take this problem, for example:

Ben and Lucy bought a total of 12 books at the bookstore. If Ben bought 7 books, how many books did Lucy buy?

What are the important parts of this story problem? Look for the key words, like 'how many' and 'total.' Rephrase the problem to understand what it's asking. Here's another way to ask the question:

There are 12 books and Ben has 7 of them. How many (n) are left for Lucy?

Then rephrase it again with numbers, like this: 12 - 7 = n, using n for the number of Lucy's books, or 5.

Draw the Problem

If it helps, you can turn a story problem into a picture. Let's try an example:

Meg earned 3 Girl Scout badges in the spring, 5 in the summer, 2 in the fall and 1 in the winter. How many badges did Meg earn this year?

Look at what type of math problem you're being asked to do. The problem is asking for a total, so you'll add up all the badges that Meg earned. If you have difficulty solving this problem using a numerical equation (3 + 5 + 2 + 1), you can try drawing a circle for every badge that Meg earns each season and then count them all (11).

Guess the Answer

When you read a story problem, you may get an idea in your head of the answer. It's okay to make a guess at first. Try it on this problem:

Mike and Erika hung 12 candy canes on their Christmas tree. Erika hung 4 more candy canes than Mike. How many candy canes did each of them hang?

When reading this problem, you may automatically think of the equation: 12 - 4 = 8. And 8 might be your best guess for Erika. If Erika hung up 4 more candy canes than Mike did, you may subtract 4 from 8 and guess that Mike hung 4 candy canes. Now you need to double-check to make sure your guesses are correct, which you can do with addition: 8 + 4 = 12.

Sample Story Problems

Now that you know how to solve story problems, you can practice on the following examples. You may want to double-check your answers afterwards so you can be sure they make sense.

1. Annie brought 24 cupcakes to share with her class on her birthday. She came home with 5 cupcakes. How many cupcakes were eaten by her classmates?

2. Jose has 1 quarter, 2 dimes, 3 nickels and 7 pennies. How many coins does he have in all?

3. Danny and Mary ate 6 slices of pizza between them. Danny ate 2 slices more than Mary. How many slices did each of them eat?

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

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