Knowing Key Words Will Unlock Math Problems

Knowing Key Words Will Unlock Math Problems

Knowing key words in problem solving is critical for all students. Word problems require students to read and comprehend the question, identify what is being asked and then solve an equation.  Making it more difficult for students is that there are multiple terms that mean the same things when solving math word problems.

For early readers, ENL students or struggling readers the task can be daunting. For those kids their inability to comprehend the question may make them unable to solve the problem.  They may have math understanding but they are not able to decipher what they are being asked. Teaching them key math terminology will help them tackle math problems.


addadded toall togetherandcombined
bothhow manyin all increaseincreased
increased bymore thanjoinperimeterplus
sumtogethertotaltotal of addition


are notdeductdetractsubtactremove
decreased (by)differenceexceedfewerfewer than
how many morehow many leftleftleft overless
minusmore thanreduce
or remains
take away


areaas muchbyeachfactor
equal groupsgroups of in all lots of multiple
multiplymultiplied byperproductproduct of
ratetimestripletwice multiplied


averagecut updistributedivide, divided,
divided by,
divisoreachequal parts
equal group
separateshared equally
every halfhow many eachinto out of
per, percent,
percent (divided by 100)
quotient, quotient of quarterratio,
ratio of


balancedequal equivalentevengives

Word problems can be tricky. Remember to look for the key words that tell you it’s the same operation.

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