Solving Number Puzzles with Words: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mark Boster
Math isn't always as easy as adding 1 + 2, sometimes you need to decide if you are going to add, subtract, multiply or divide. This often happens in word puzzles. This lesson is going to give you some insight in how to decide.

Number Problems with Words

Mary is allowed to have seven cookies a day. Today, she had one in the morning, two with lunch, and three in the afternoon. Mary wants to know if she'll be allowed to have any cookies after dinner.

To answer Mary's question, we'll have to solve a number problem with words. In order to solve these types of problems, there are some steps to make it easier.

  1. Read the entire story.
  2. Find what the question is asking.
  3. Look for the important numbers.
  4. If there are clue words, use them to decide if you should add, subtract, multiply, or divide. Some examples of clue words are in the 'Clue Words' chart.
  5. Answer the question and double-check your work to see if it makes sense.

Clue Words

How Many Cookies?

Let's go ahead and go through the steps to find out if Mary will be allowed to have any cookies with dinner.

First, we should reread the story to make sure we understand it correctly. Next, we have to figure out the question that the number problem is asking. In this case, we want to know how many (if any) more cookies can Mary eat today?

Third, we need to find the important numbers from the story. In our case, the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 7 were mentioned.

  • Mary had 1 cookie in the morning.
  • Mary had 2 cookies with lunch.
  • Mary had 3 cookies in the afternoon.
  • Mary is allowed to have 7 cookies each day.

Now, we look for clue words. We know that 'AND' means we should add. That's all our clues. Let's take that info and see what we get.

We know that Mary can have 7 cookies but we need to know how many she has already had today. Let's add what she's already eaten today:

1 + 2 + 3 = 6

Mary's had 6 cookies. If she's allowed to have 7, can she have any more? Now we need to subtract.

7 - 6 = 1

Yes. Mary can have 1 cookie with dinner.

Another Example

Let's do another problem:

Each box of cookies comes with 28 cookies in it. If Mary eats 7 cookies a day, how many days will one box of cookies last?

Let's go through our steps.

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