We all know that math is a unique subject when it comes to the expressions used. Unlike most subjects in which students use words, letters, and language, math forces students to become comfortable using numbers, too.

By the time students make it to 5th grade, no longer can they expect their math class to include numbers alone. In middle school, word problems are one of the most common math problems that students will encounter.

Solving word problems can be tricky for students – especially in math class because they are so used to using numbers. The words can throw certain students off, confusing them and leading to errors.

Let’s take a closer look at the various ways we can solve word problems and hopefully, they will trip fewer people up in the future.

## Solving word problems through operations

Word problems are a key part of a complete math education. They help students develop vital problem-solving skills, and properly apply mathematical concepts to real-life scenarios.

In grade 5, students are expected to understand many different word problems. One way they can be solved is by performing appropriate operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

### Remove the values and focus on operations

To solve word problems through operations, the first step is to remove the specific numerical values that are mentioned in the problem. While this may seem counterintuitive, this lets students understand the question conceptually properly and identify the operations they will have to apply to solve the problem.

Let’s look at an example.

“John has 12 apples, and he gives 5 apples to his friend. How many apples does John have left?” To solve this, we can remove the specific values and focus purely on the operation we need to perform: subtraction. Since John starts with a certain number of apples and we see that he is giving some away, we know that subtraction is the appropriate operation.

This approach helps students better understand important mathematical concepts and greatly improves their problem-solving capabilities.

### Mixed Word Problems

After seeing our first problem, we can see that solving word problems can be straightforward. Things can get a little bit more complicated, however, when we encounter mixed word problems.

Mixed word problems are problems that involve multiple operations. This means that students will need to use a combination of the operations mentioned above: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Let’s try one of these more advanced examples.

Consider the following mixed-word problem:

“Joey went to the store and bought 8 packs of pens. Each pack contains 6 pens. He gave 4 pens to his friend and divided the rest equally among his siblings. If Joey has 4 siblings, how many pens does each sibling get?”

Clearly, we need to perform multiple operations to solve this problem. First, we need to multiply the number of packs (8) by the number of pens per pack (6) to find the total number of pens that Joey bought (48). Next, we need to take the number of pens he gave to his friend (4) away from the total number of pens. Finally, we need to divide this number (44) by the number of siblings Joey has (4), to find out how many pens each sibling will get. So, we divide 44 by 4 and our answer is 11.

As you can see, mixed word problems are more difficult, because students need to analyze these questions more carefully, and since they require multiple operations, there is more room for error. With plenty of practice, mixed word problems help students accelerate toward possessing high-level problem-solving skills.

## Solving word problems with tables

Another way that grade 5 students can solve word problems is with tables. Tables provide a visual, structured format for organizing and analyzing information. This structure makes it easy for students to identify patterns and relationships, and, ultimately, solve the problems.

### Completing the Table

Completing a table is a method that students can use to solve word problems quickly and effectively. Students must create a table with labeled rows and columns, into which they can input information and track the variable in the particular problem.

For example, let’s consider this problem:

“A bakery sold 15 loaves of bread on Monday, 20 loaves on Tuesday, and 16 loaves on Wednesday. If they sell the same number of loaves each day, how many loaves did they sell on Thursday?”

To solve this, students would construct a table and create columns for the days of the week, filling the number of loaves sold in the rows across. With the values for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday already given, students would then use the pattern that they’ve observed in the table to identify the number of loaves sold on Thursday.

Completing the table is a great way for young students to learn quickly. The visual aspect is very effective in helping students see the problems clearly, which will help them find their answers faster and, most importantly, accurately.

## At Online Math Center

At Online Math Center, we have the tools, expertise, and experience to help your kids thrive in their math lessons. With individual courses, SAT prep courses, and tutoring lessons for students of all ages in middle and high school, OMC is the best place to give your kids the advantage in math class.

Contact OMC today for more information and to enroll your child in our grade 5 math course.