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  • Writer's pictureKristy Johnson

3 Engaging Word Problem Activities for Upper Elementary

Are you constantly searching for word problem activities that engage your upper elementary students? As a 6th grade teacher, I always felt that I needed some more engaging activities for my age group. I want to tell you about 3 word problem activities that are sure to engage your upper elementary students.

Teaching students about word problems and how to solve them is extremely important. The key to solving word problems is breaking them down into simple steps. I teach my students a strategy to use called the CUBES strategy.

What is the CUBES strategy?:

C- Circle key numbers

U- Underline the question

B- Box the key words

E- Evaluate and draw

S- Solve and check

When teaching students to break down word problems using the CUBES strategy, I have seen a lot of success and confidence from them. We do many different activities to learn and practice the CUBES Strategy together. In order to teach the CUBES strategy, I begin by using these Cubes Strategy Anchor Charts and these CUBES Strategy Word Problem Foldable Books for direct practice with students. After we have done a TON of direct practice with word problems together, then I throw in word problems everywhere that I can fit them throughout the learning day. From here on out, every time students solve word problems, I expect to see them using the CUBES strategy.

These anchor charts are a great visual to help teach and remind students of the steps they need to use to solve the word problems with the acronym CUBES. I leave these up for most of the year once this strategy is introduced.

CUBES Strategy Anchor Charts Include:

-full size anchor chart

-notebook sized anchor charts (available in COLOR and BLACK/WHITE)

-CUBES organizer sheet that can be used with any word problem

CUBES Strategy Foldable Books are what I typically use to have students practice the CUBES method over and over again. (Plus it’s more fun to practice in a “book” than on a worksheet!)

Students go through the CUBES Strategy Foldable Books to solve a word problem using the CUBES steps. There are 9 different books for practice when you are in each part of the unit. (These are typically for 4th-6th grades.) Did you know that students actually learn more when they are working on a hands-on activity PLUS they will be more engaged in the topic?!

The CUBES Strategy Foldable Books are also NO prep! All you have to do is simply print, fold and use with your class! These foldable books are the perfect practice with the CUBES method! Use these books for independent practice, in centers, small groups or with partners.

The CUBES Strategy Foldable Books include:



-Multi-step (Add, then subtract)

-Multiplication (2 digit by 2 digit)

-Multiplication (4 digit by 1 digit)

-Division (No remainders)

-Division (Remainders)

-Division (Understanding remainders)

-Multi-step (Add, then divide)

How to Engage Students when Learning about Word Problems

Just practicing word problems and using the CUBES strategy is not engaging enough. Engagement in the classroom is the key to student success. A teacher’s goal should always be that the students want to learn the topics that we are teaching about and that they have fun during learning. This is why I have created a new product line of engaging activity worksheets with word problems. Students can practice their skills with word problems. When they get their answer, it tells them a specific color to use, then they go to their picture page and color the corresponding areas that color for that problem number.

I like to use Color-by-Number Word Problem Activities to engage students in solving word problems in upper elementary. This way, my students get the math practice that they need and they also get to color and show their creative and artistic side during math. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that older students like to color too! I have found that after a very tough virtual year for students, it is really important to use hands-on activities in the classroom. I try to bring in word problem practice every day, multiple times a day, after the topic is introduced.

3. Color-by-Number Word Problem Activities

Color-by-Number Word Problems and CUBES Strategy Foldable Books were created with 3rd-6th graders in mind. There are not a lot of hands-on coloring activities for this age group, besides typical basic math facts practice.

  • Morning Work

  • Centers

  • Early Finishers

  • Sub Plans

  • Homework

  • Extra Practice

You can check out these holiday themed Color-by-Number Activities for practice with word problems:

Have you ever tried teaching the CUBES strategy to solve word problems? If not, how do you teach your students to solve word problems?


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