Story Problem Challenge Revisited

Well, I didn’t get any takers with the last story problem challenge. But school is in full session now, and we’re doing story problems in Math Club this Friday, so I thought I’d try again.

Here’s the challenge: Can you and your students make up some original math problems?

In Math Club, we always start by reading part of the book Math by Kids for inspiration. I can’t print those stories here, however, because of copyright rules, so I’ll share some of the stories my past students have made, arranged in roughly increasing order of difficulty. After you solve a couple of these problems with your children, encourage them to try making some of their own.

And please, share their gems with us!


The problems below are now available as a printable handout: Story Problem Challenge.

From Chickenfoot, age 6:

I spent $8, and I had $4 left. How much money did I start with?

From Princess Kitten, age 7 1/2:

Kelly’s family had 5 real dogs. Two of them got lost. Kelly went looking for them. She found 2 stuffed animals that looked like the 2 dogs that got lost. She went back to her home. Then their 3 dogs went looking for the 2 dogs that got lost, and they came back with the 2 dogs and 3 stuffed animals that looked just like the 3 dogs. How many dogs are there altogether?

From one of the Three Musketeers, age 11:

Mrs. Sterns has two different recipes of cookies she is going to make. She sees that she does not have any chocolate chips left, so she has to go to the store. But first she has to find out how much to get. One recipe calls for 63 oz. The other calls for 52 oz. When she gets to the store, the only packages they have are 20 oz. of chocolate chips. How many packages does she have to get?

From Horsey Girl, age 12:

I am an odd number less than 50. I’m square, not prime. And I am divisible by 3. What number am I?

From a Musketeer’s sister, age 13:

I take eight counts to do a pirouette turn and two fouettés turns. A pirouette takes 1/2 of the eight counts. One fouetté takes half that time. How many counts would it take to do the famous combination of one pirouette and 32 fouettés?

From Computergeek, age 14:

You make about $27 profit for sales of pineapple soda. If each can cost 25 cents, and you bought 75 cans and sold 46 cans, how much did you sell each can of soda for?

From The Engineer, homeschooling father, age not given:

When we went on a fishing vacation to Canada, we found out the grocery stores sold milk in large, 4-liter plastic bags instead of in gallon jugs. Inside each bag there were three smaller plastic bags. How much milk did each of these individual bags hold?

And from the math teacher herself:

At a homeschool workshop, only 2/7 of the attendees were men. If there were 72 more women than men, how many people came to the workshop?

Okay, if we can do it, so can you! I’m looking forward to reading the math problems you and your students create.

To Be Continued…

Read all the posts from the July/August 1999 issue of my Mathematical Adventures of Alexandria Jones newsletter.

For more about matching birthdays, read A mathematician’s guide to birthdays.

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5 thoughts on “Story Problem Challenge Revisited

    1. It’s such a flexible project. If I want problems on a specific topic, I will let the students use problems in their book as models or idea-starters.

      Or sometimes, if there is a page of just-plain-calculation practice, I will let them choose problems from that page and make up word problems for those calculations.

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