Story Math - Helping Kids Solve Complex Math Problems

Even young kids are capable of higher-level thinking with math, but we need to give them time, tools, and opportunities! Story Math allows kids to solve math problems based on real-world applications.

No longer is math an isolated procedure to follow or arbitrary numbers to solve. Now math is put within the context of a story and kids use their innate problem-solving abilities to figure them out using strategies that are meaningful to them.

Story Math

Story Math Problem to Solve:

For Halloween, Benson and Brewer carved jack-o-lanterns. Benson carved 37 jack-o-lanterns. Brewer also carved a bunch of jack-o-lanterns. When they were done, they had 55 jack-o-lanterns all together. How many jack-o-lanterns did Brewer carve?

This type of Cognitive Guided Instruction math problem is referred to as a Join: Change Unknown.

We know how many jack-o-lanterns Benson carved, we know how many were carved at the end, but we need to figure out how many jack-o-lanterns Brewer carved.

In a math equation, it would look like this:

37 + _____ = 55

Do you think a kindergartner would be able to solve this type of equation? Probably not, if they were just looking at the equation.

However, this equation is within the context of a story, so let's see what happens!

Problem-Solving in Action

This video shows Brewer (age 6) solving a Story Math problem. The unified cubes allow him to build bigger numbers. He is able to explain this strategy of “counting-up” at the end.

This is a great example of CGI Math (Cognitive Guided Instruction) and how kids think through complex math problems.

Even Young Kids are Capable of Higher-Level Thinking

Notice that Brewer was given the story and tools to use to solve it, but left to figure it out on his own.

He was not told what to do or how to solve the problem.

In fact, most adults would have probably told him to subtract (55-37). 

Instead, Brewer used the "counting-up" strategy which makes more sense within the context of the story.

First Brewer worked with a smaller number set to figure out a strategy that worked for him, then he was able to apply his strategy to larger numbers.

By working to figure it out on his own, he is making sense of the problem and getting a deeper mathematical conceptual understanding.

One of the benefits of Story Math is that the numbers can be changed for the level of your child. Need more of a challenge? Make the numbers bigger! Too difficult? Use smaller numbers. With Story Math, the context is the same, but the numbers can change based on the needs of the child.

Story Math Sample

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