Numberless Word Problems

To work on understanding math problems, we have been doing work with numberless word problems. These problems start without numbers so that students focus on what the problem is asking rather than immediately doing something with the numbers. (Often, students will add the two numbers in a problem, whether or not that makes sense.)

For example, “The freight train had some box cars on it. Then some more box cars were hooked on to the train.” Students recognize that is an addition problem as more are being added. Then we see the next piece of the problem, “The freight train had some box cars on it. Then some more box cars were hooked on to the train. The train now has 119 box cars hooked up to it.” Students can set up a problem that looks like this:

______ + ______ = 119

Finally, we see the full problem, “The freight train had 52 box cars on it. Then some more box cars were hooked to the train. The train now has 119 box cars hooked up to it. How many more cars were hooked on to the train?” Now the problem looks like this:

52 + ______ = 119

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