Lesson plan

Stepping Through Multiplication and Division Word Problems

Teach your students four simple steps to help them solve multiplication and division word problems with confidence.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Reflecting on Multiplication and Division Word Problems pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Reflecting on Multiplication and Division Word Problems pre-lesson.

Students will be able to apply word problem strategies to solve problems using multiplication or division.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(8 minutes)
  • Tell students about a simple routine that you have like getting ready for bed in the evening or getting ready in the morning. Be sure to mention that you follow a routine so that you don’t forget to do anything like leave your home without your lunch.
  • Let students share a routine they have with a partner.
  • Call on a few students to share with the whole class what happens if they don’t follow their routine.
  • Tell students that we’re less likely to forget something if we follow a routine or do the same steps each time.
  • Explain to students that there are steps they can follow to solve multiplication and division word problems, just like they follow steps for the routines they have.
(20 minutes)
  • Create a chart titled "Steps for Solving Word Problems" with the following steps:
    • Step 1: Read the Whole Problem
    • Step 2: Circle Clue Words and Numbers
    • Step 3: Make a Model
    • Step 4: Solve the Problem
  • Call on students to explain why they think it’s important to read the whole problem first. Point to Step 2 and ask students if they can think of any words that signal multiplication or division. Explain that multiplication and division clue words can be tricky.
  • Have students individually complete the Multiplication & Division Clue Words Sorting Activity. As students finish, have them compare their answers with a partner and explain their thinking.
  • Go over the Multiplication & Division Clue Words Sorting Activity answers as a class. Give examples of words that the students found challenging. Make sure students understand that this is not a complete list of multiplication and division clue words.
  • Show students the following problem: "Dasha bought four boxes of markers. If each box has eight markers in it. How many markers does Dasha have?"
    • Complete Steps 1 and 2.
    • Tell students that for Step 3, Make a Model, you want them to try and use a bar model today.
    • Review or explain to students how a bar model is a visual represenation of a number or equation. A rectangle is used to represent the whole and the rectangle is split into boxes to represent the parts that equal the whole.
    • Talk aloud as you complete Step 3 and draw a bar model for solving this problem. For example, "I can draw a bar model with 4 boxes or groups of markers. I’ll put an 8 in each box for the number of markers in each box and I’ll label the whole rectangle with a question mark since I don’t know the total."
  • Ask students, by looking at your model, if they can start Step 4, Solve the Problem. Call on students to share their thinking. (They might suggest adding up the four boxes instead of multiplying 4 x 8. If this happens, remind students that multiplication is repeated addition.)
  • Ask students to explain how they knew this was a multiplication problem and not a division problem. Finish solving the problem together. Remind students that you followed each of the four steps to solve the problem.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students you would like to solve two more problems together as a class using the Steps for Solving Word Problems Chart.
    • Problem #1: Ms. Kelson has 30 students in her class. She wants to put them into six table groups. How many students should she put into each table group? (Answer: She should put five students in each table group.)
    • Problem #2: Pablo earns money mowing his neighbors lawns. In one month he earned $72 mowing nine lawns. How much money did he charge per lawn? (Answer: He charged $8 per lawn.)
  • Assign partners or have students pick a partner to work with.
  • Give each pair a word problem set from the Multiplication and Division Partner Word Problems worksheet to solve together using the Steps for Solving Word Problems chart.
  • Circulate the room to monitor students' understanding.
  • Call on students to share with the class what went well while solving the problems with their partners and if they have any questions.
(12 minutes)
  • Hand out the Multiplication and Division Word Problems Practice worksheet to each student.
  • Ask them to complete it independently.
  • Assist students, as needed.

Enrichment: Challenge students to write their own multiplication word problem and division word problem. Have them trade with a partner to solve.


  • Use color coding or highlight sections (clue words, important numbers) of the word problems on the worksheet in advance.
  • Review with students how they can use fact families to help them problem solve. (Ex: If 36 ÷ ? = 9 is confusing, 9 x ? = 36 might make sense.)
(5 minutes)
  • Collect independent work to serve as an assessment for understanding.
  • Students will complete an Exit Ticket by writing answers on a sticky note or piece of paper.
  • Display the Exit Ticket problem:
    • Camille collected trash on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. She worked for three hours each day. How many hours did she spend collecting trash? (Answer: 12 hours)
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students to share real life situations when they might have to solve a multiplication or division problem.
  • Ask students to consider the type of information they might need to solve the problem in each of the real life scenarios they suggested.

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