One of the concepts we explore in math is number stories (or word problems as I knew them when I was in school.) Oh, how word problems terrified me….to the point that in high school algebra, when I came to a word problem on an exam, I would simply skip them!! (Now, I know that doesn’t show perseverance or determination!)

In kindergarten, we explore number stories several different ways. First, I make number story examples meaningful, using students’ own names and characteristics, classroom events, and other real-life situations. We start by reading the number story and identifying any important words. We act them out. We illustrate them. Then we tie numbers and math symbols to our number stories.

Today we explored number stories using paper gingerbread cookies that students could manipulate. Take a peek:

Students each drew two jars. We discussed that “altogether” means we are adding the items together. Therefore 5+5=10.

For this next one, students suggested they draw two friends. They gave three cookies to each friend, because equal means dividing the cookies so each person has the same amount. But then a student realized that the number story said “How can WE share them equally?” meaning the baker is included in the sharing!

So we added a third person to the mix….making the equation 2+2+2=6.

According to Everyday Math, “Number stories provide a natural bridge from spoken to mathematical symbolic language. Children cross this bridge in stages, at first using everyday language to tell number stories, then gradually incorporating mathematical language, and ultimately using mathematical symbols to model their stories.” It is my goal to make students feel so comfortable using mathematical language and symbols, that when they are faced with number stories in high school, they feel confident in solving them.