Teaching Math Word Problem Key Words (Free Cheat Sheet)

November 20, 2023

Jeannette Tuionetoa

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Tackling word problems in math can be challenging for kids to learn. We called them story problems when I was in school. If your kids are learning math key words so they can solve word problems, they you’ll find these free cheat sheets and worksheets for word problem key words helpful. 

Math Word Problem Keywords free cheat sheets graphing paper with a circle and text overlay

Math Word Problem Key Words

There is no doubt that mathematical operations using words are difficult for kids. They go from counting numbers to doing math equations with numbers.

Then all of a sudden… there are words, just words. All of a sudden algebraic expressions and mathematical operations are POOF – words.

The lack of numbers and shift in mindset can completely throw off a lot of students. If kids have difficulty with reading, then that is yet another struggle for kids as they try to learn basic problems in math.

Teaching students about challenging math keywords just got easier! Be sure to download our free math key words cheat sheet at the end of this post. 

Why do some kids struggle with word problems?

A key proponent in different operations in math is learning the key words that prompt kids to understand which operation skill they need to use to solve the problem.

This means that they should master regular math problems first and be able to read with comprehension. You will shortly find that if these two skills aren’t somewhat mastered first, then word problems will become an issue.

Many times math is a subject best taught in sequential order. If one step is missed, then the future steps falter. This is much like how it is when teaching word problems.

The best thing for your children is for them to first:

  • Be able to read well.
  • Understand math concepts and phrases.
  • Know to not rush, but focus on math key words, identify relevant information, and understand the text.
  • Get to know the keywords for math word problems

What are keywords for math word problems?

Key words in mathematical word operations are the words or phrases that will signal or show a student which type of math operation to choose in order to solve the math word problem.

The keywords for math word problems used in operations are a strategy that helps the math problem make sense and draw connections to how it can be answered.

Basically, when using key words, students must decipher whether they need to solve the math equation via addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

What are the common keywords for math word problems?

Thankfully, there are math key words that our children can learn that help them work through their word problems. They are prompts that point them in the right direction.

Just like a different language needs words translated for comprehension, students translate the words… into math.

Keywords for Math Word Problems

Learning these math keywords will help with problem solving:

Addition Math Key Words:

  • total
  • combine
  • together
  • add
  • altogether
  • increased by
  • increase
  • more than
  • plus
  • sum
  • together
  • both
  • in all
  • larger
  • larger than
  • more
  • in addition to
  • how much in all

Subtraction Math Key Words:

  • take away
  • left over
  • decreased
  • difference
  • fewer than
  • gave away
  • how many more
  • how many less
  • less
  • minus
  • remain
  • shorter than
  • smaller than

Key Words for Multiplication Word Problems:

  • cubed
  • times
  • each
  • groups
  • area
  • product of
  • per
  • triple
  • quadruple
  • increased by
  • multiplied by
  • double/twice

Key Words used for Division Word Problems:

  • divide
  • equal group
  • average
  • each
  • half of
  • quarter
  • ratio
  • quotient
  • share
  • split by
  • as much
  • cut up
  • how many in each
  • percent

You can print off a free math key words cheat sheet that has the above math key words for word problems and add it to your homeschool binder. Find the download link at the bottom of this post. 

How can we help kids learn keywords for solving numberless word problems?

Teach kids steps for solving word problems until it becomes a habit or they get comfortable with the steps. First, they can look for the important information and write those down. (Read the problem carefully). Next, kids need to define or find the variables in the math equation.

From the keywords, kids can now determine what math operation to use. Translate the words to math. Then, kids can solve the math equation. This is where the skills of solving numbered equations are important.

Finally, students have to put their answers in the form of a word sentence. NOTE: Many times kids think after solving the equation they are done. However, the key to making sure they understand that word problems need word answers.

Different Strategies to Familiarize Keywords in Word Operations

You can use some of these keywords for math word problems as vocabulary words in your homeschool.

Students can display subtraction, addition, multiplication, and multiplication handy reference posters on a bulletin board in your homeschool area. Students can also just list them on dry erase boards. These are perfect visual reminders for what keywords go with what math word problems.

Your students can also keep their keywords for math word problems with them as they study. They can place the list of keywords in a math folder or in an anchor chart – and then in their math folder.

Kids can keep the keyword poster sets in their math notebooks or keep them in a word problem journal.

Their strategy for learning word problem keywords all depends on how they best absorb information.

Students may do well using a combination of these methods. Either way, all of these different strategies can be used to get them comfortable in identifying the route to solve math word equations.

black upper background with white mathematical formulas. a girl doing math work and text overlay

Math Word Problem Keywords Cheat Sheets & Teaching Aids:

We created a free pdf download Word Problem Key Words Cheat Sheet that you can find at the bottom of this post. It’s great to use as a reference for math word problems.

Word Problem Clue Words

Get a Clue Free Download – Check out these word problem clue word handouts and posters to help your students with word problems. There 5 pages in all that will be handy for your kids in trying to find the correct answer while using the correct operation.

Addition and Subtraction Word Problem Keywords

Subtraction Keywords/Addition Keywords – Until your kids memorize keywords and what they mean, this freebie can help. Grab these simple black and white printable signs. They will help kids look for keywords like larger numbers for subtraction word problems or addition keywords like in addition to

Story Problem Key Words

Words to Math – Keywords in math problems are essentially turning words into math. This graphic organizer printable is a quick reference for your students to use with numberless math word problems. Place them in a notebook chart or your homeschool classroom wall as a visual reminder.

Word Problem Key Words Poster

Key Word Posters for Math Problems – Grab these word problem keyword handy reference posters for subtraction, addition, division, and multiplication. Each poster has its specific theme and specific words to solve all problem types. Kids will enjoy having practiced with these math key words posters.

Word Problem Key Words Worksheets

Fun Key Word Sorting Activity – Your kids have now studied some keywords for math word problems helpful for problem solving in mathematical operations. Use this word problem sorting activity to test their knowledge in a fun engaging way. Add this fun activity to your test prep materials.

World Problems Worksheets with Key Words – These word problems worksheets use key phrases to help your students identify the phrases that will help them determine which math operation to use.

Word Problem Key Words for Math

Math word problems are probably the first opportunity students get to understand how math relates to real world situations. The applications can be relevant in their real life experiences like going to the market.

However, the benefit to word problems doesn’t stop there…

With word problems, students develop their higher-order thinking and critical thinking skills.

Different types of word problems guide your students to applying math various math concepts at the same time. They have to know basic number sense, basic algebra skills, and even geometry when they attempt multiplication word problems.

If we do it the right way, kids won’t see word problems as a dreadful experience in math. Understanding word problems is a learning curve and doesn’t come easily to kids.

Identify Learning Gaps

Another important aspect of word problems is that they tell a parent/teacher if a child needs help in areas like reading comprehension or math number operations skills. This type of word math is a great evaluation of your student’s thinking processes.

We can, however, help make it a better experience for them by teaching it the right way.

Free Math Key Words Cheat Sheet Instant Download

You won’t want to miss our free Word Problem Key Words Cheat Sheet PDF download for different ways kids see keywords in various types of problems in mathematics. This math tool is everything your student needs and the perfect resource to reference keywords in math operations.

Includes the keywords that will help your children solve and recognize word problems for:

  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division

math word problems keywords free downloadInstant Download: Math Word Problems Keywords Cheat Sheet

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