3rd Grade Math: Solving Story Problems

You may see story problems on your in-class math tests this year and on standardized state tests. Although 3rd grade math story problems can be challenging, they provide realistic applications of abstract math concepts. Here are some ideas for making story problems more manageable.

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Solving Story Problems

What Is a Story Problem?

A story problem, or word problem, is a math problem that uses words and mini-narratives to ask math questions. Many times, story problems will use the same math as your worksheets or textbook sample problems, but they will look different because of all the words in between the numbers.

Decoding Story Problems

Word problems often use stories to ask arithmetic questions. As a result, you'll often see a lot of unessential details included in these problems. It's your job to figure out what information is important and what you can ignore. Look at this sample problem:

Sally has four dogs, named Ralph, Spot, Fido and Fred. Because the dogs don't get along, Sally needs to walk each one individually. If each dog gets five walks per week, how many times a week does Sally go on walks?

An easy clue to determining what information is important is to look for numbers. For instance, it doesn't matter what the dogs names are, but it does matter that there are four of them.

Next, you have to determine which operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division) you should use. In this case, we should use multiplication because we want to find out the total amount of walks Sally goes on per week. Multiply the number of dogs (four) to the number of times they get walked each week (five): 4 x 5 = 20. The answer is 20 walks.


Here are a few more word problems for practice:

  1. Tim had 20 fireballs. If he gave half to Amy and then half of what he had left to Lisa, how many fireballs would Tim have?
  2. Caroline made $30.00 at her bake sale on Friday. If she has three more bake sales, one each Friday for the next three weeks, how much money will she have at the end of the month if she earns the $30.00 each time?


  1. Tim would have five fireballs left.
  2. Caroline would have $120.00 at the end of the month.
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