Math Problem Solving and Young Children

math problem solving is important for young kids
Kids need to learn to be good problem solvers

Young children are naturally curious and therefore are great at problem solving.  They can also be great math problem solvers with some simple guidance from adults. There are some common strategies that young children can learn to help them solve problems.

The BIG 5 Problem Solving Strategies for Young Kids

  1. Guess and Check– This is one of the simplest strategies to solve problems. It allows students to respond and then check to see if their guess was right. Although easy, kids sometimes think it’s a game and guess any answer.  Since guesses can be done without much thinking, you can support their guessing by asking them if it is the best guess.  Encourage them to think about their guesses and ask do you think that’s the best guess?
  2. Act it Out– Have kids pretend they are actors and perform the information in the problem. Ex. John went to the store and bought 3 apples. Mary also bought 3 apples.  How many apples did they have all together? In this example John pretends to walk to a store to buy 3 apples. Mary does the same and then they put their apples together to solve the problem.
  3. Use Manipulatives– Using items to represent numbers can help kids make a problem concrete. Manipulatives can be anything that can be easily moved. (counters, dice, money, beans, chips, fingers, money, paper clips) Be creative!
  4. Draw– Drawing pictures gives students the opportunity to create their own manipulatives. This is a perfect strategy to use when there are no manipulatives nearby.  Drawing helps to keep kids focused on the problem and it also creates a visual representation of the problem.  This can be used to show their thinking.
  5. Think It Through– Encourage kids to be thinkers. Teach them to think (remember) things they already know.  Prompt them with questions and hints on ways to solve the The following questions can be used to guide their mathematical thinking: What did you do to get the answer?What did you do to get the answer?
  • Can you show me how you figured that out?
  • What happened in the problem?
  • Why do you think that is the correct answer?
  • Where do you think you should start?
  • Do you think that will work?
  • What did you do to get the answer?

Enjoy the Math Journey!

Children’s ability to solve problems will improve with experience and practice.  Parents can engage their children in math by pointing out math concepts that surround them every day. Guide them to see the patterns, shapes and numbers in their world.  Engage them in cooking, card playing, puzzles and different types of board games. Enjoy your math journey together.

Other posts related to this topic

Numeracy in Early Childhood

“Math Walks”: Time to “Walk the Talk”

100 Chart for Math

Math Enrichment Problems: Jan. Grades 2-3

Math Enrichment Problems

Welcome to the 2nd month of  Monthly Math Enrichment Problems post, Each month I post some Math Enrichment problems for grades 2-3.  I hope you will find them useful with your students in class or your kids at home.

Don’t forget to use 1 of your 6 problem solving strategies

  1. Draw a picture
  2. Guess and Check
  3. Use a table or list
  4. Find a pattern
  5. Logical reasoning
  6. Working backwards (try a simpler version first)

Problem Solving – Here we go! 

  1. On a baseball team, Chris, Jerry and Matt each played one of three positions of pitcher, catcher and second baseman, though not necessarily in that order. The second baseman, playing his first season with the team, had the lowest salary.  Chris, who along with Jerry had played two seasons with this team, earned more than the pitcher.  Who was the pitcher?
  2. Declan wants to swim 20 yards out into the ocean. He swims out 5 yards in 4 seconds but then in one second a wave pushes him back 2 yards. If this cycle continues, how long will it take Declan to get 20 yards out for the first time, even if only for an instant?
  3. A group of 63 students went to the museum. Some students took the bus, the rest went by car. If 41 students took the bus and 3 students rode in each car, then how many cars were needed?
  4. Lowyn likes to celebrate her birthday for a whole week. On the first day she eats one cookie.  On the second day she eats 2 cookies. This continues on until the seventh day when she eats 7 cookies. How many cookies did Lowyn eat that week?
  5. Doug spent $44 This is twice as much as Kelly and Marian spent together.  Kelly spent $9.  How much did Marian spend?
  6. 61 + 12 = __ – 7   Find the number that belongs on the line.
  7. If 40 – 6 = Q, how much is 45 + Q


  1. Matt is the pitcher.  Neither Chris nor Jerry played second base (it wasn’t their first season).  Matt played second base. Chris earned more than the pitcher so he’s not the pitcher, Matt is.
  2. The answer is 29.  Every 5 seconds he gains 3 yards. After 25 seconds he is 15 yards out. In 4 more seconds he will be 20 yards out for the first time (even if only for an instant).
  3. The answer is 8.  63-41=22.  If 3 students traveled in each car, there were 8 cars.   7 cars had 3 students for 21 total and an 8th car was needed for the 22nd student.
  4. The answer is 28.  1+2+3+4+5+6+7=28
  5. The answer is $13.  Half of $44 is $22.  Since Kelly spent $9, then Marian had to spend $13 to equal $22.
  6. 80 goes on the line.      61 + 12 = 73   and 80 – 7 = 73
  7. Q = 79.

Don’t forget to check in NEXT MONTH for more Enrichment Problems 

Other posts related to this topic

Math Enrichment Problems: Dec. Grades 2-3   December 15, 2018

Math Enrichment: How To Encourage?  December 13, 2018

Enrichment in Class? Is Your Child Being Challenged?  December 4, 2018

Highly-abled students need attention too!  September 17, 2018