EL Support Lesson

Writing Questions for Multi-Step Word Problems

Get your students thinking like mathematicians with this lesson that has them crafting questions for multi-step word problems. It may be taught independently or as support for the lesson Multi-Step Word Problems? No Problem!
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theMulti-Step Word Problems? No Problem!Lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theMulti-Step Word Problems? No Problem!Lesson plan.

Students will be able to solve multi-step words problems with mixed operations using a four-step plan.


Students will be able to write questions for multi-step word problems using a graphic organizer and peer support.

(2 minutes)
Crafting Questions for Multi-Step Word ProblemsVocabulary Cards: Writing Questions for Multi-Step Word ProblemsGlossary: Writing Questions for Multi-Step Word ProblemsTeach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives Reference
  • Read aloud the student-facing content and language objectives for this lesson. Have students repeat or rephrase them to a partner.
  • Briefly define any unknown terms in the objectives and emphasize that today the students will play the role of the teacher as they create questions to go along with information in word problems.
(10 minutes)
  • Introduce the four tiered vocabulary words by showing the vocabulary cards, one at a time, on the document camera. Have student volunteers read each word, its definition, and describe the image.
  • Explain to students that word problems can be challenging because they involve students being able to practise their reading ComprehensionSkills as well as their mathematetical skills. When the word problems are Multi-step, which means that they involve multiple OperationsThat must be done in order to find the solution, it adds another layer of difficulty.
  • Read aloud the following word problem and circle the KeywordsOr the important words such as "rows, each row, pounds". Ask students to consider what is missing in the following statement (the question at the end): "Raul has an apple orchard with 10 rows of apple trees with 17 trees in each row. Each tree produces approximately 120 pounds of apples each harvest."
  • Emphasize that most word problems have a question at the end which is important because it tells us what to solve for.
  • Have students turn to a partner and discuss possible questions to add to the end of this word problem.
  • Ask students to share their ideas and record them on the board (e.g., "How many pounds of apples does Raul collect each harvest?").
  • Acknowledge that in some cases, it is possible for different questions to be asked, but in other cases, the information leads us to a clear question to ask.
  • Model how to solve the word problem about the apples, and emphasize the two steps needed to get the answer. Note: if your students are familiar with multiple methods to multiply, model how to solve with two different methods such as partial products, area model, or the standard algorithm.
    • Step 1: 10 rows x 17 apple trees = 170 total apple trees.
    • Step 2: 120 pounds x 170 total apple trees = 20,400 pounds of apples.
  • Explain to students that with word problems, it is helpful to include words or units in the maths work you do to make sure you are connecting the maths problem with the solution and doing the correct operations.
(8 minutes)
  • Place students into partnerships. Distribute the Crafting Questions for Multi-Step Word Problems worksheet and display a teacher copy. Read aloud the directions and explain that students will be working in partnerships to co-create a question to follow some information provided in a word problem.
  • Tell students that they should not solve the problem yet but focus only on writing a short, and to-the-point question that will complete the word problem for their peers to solve later on.
  • Review the sample problem and explain each step aloud. Ask students to briefly skim the word problems in the first column and circle any words they do not understand. Define and explain these unknown words.
  • Tell students to refer to the vocabulary cards displayed as they co-craft problem questions for numbers 2 to 6 (in the second column).
  • Circulate the room and offer assistance as needed.
  • Combine two pairs of students to make a group of four and have the two pairs share their questions with one another and provide feedback using the following sentence frames:
    • "Your question is ____Because..." (e.g., "Your question is excellent because it is easy to understand.")
    • "I like how your question uses the word ____Because..."
    • "I suggest you change your question to ____So that..."
  • Invite a few students to share the feedback from the small group sharing session with the whole class.
(12 minutes)
  • Tell students that since they had the chance to play the role of teacher as they wrote problem questions, they now have the task of solving the word problems they created.
  • Ask one pair of students to share their problem question, and then model on the teacher copy how to solve the problem based on the question asked.
  • Scramble the partnerships so that students have a new partner to work with. Tell students to switch their worksheet with their partner and make sure both of their names are on them. Remind students to show their work in the Solution column of the graphic organizer and label everything clearly. Encourage them to draw pictures or models to help them solve the problems.
  • Have them solve the word problems on their peer's worksheet, making sure to show all the the steps involved and writing the answer in a complete sentence.
  • Instruct students to check each others' work once they are done solving the problems.
  • Tell students to ask their partner questions regarding their solution to the problem using the following questions and sentence stems as a guide:
    • How did you solve the problem? ("I solved the problem by first... Then, I...")
    • How do you know it is correct? ("I know it is correct because...")


  • Allow students to explain maths processes in their home language before rephrasing using sentence stems/frames in English.
  • Have students work in a smaller, teacher-led group during group work.
  • Create and display a word/phrase bank with helpful terms from the lesson for students to refer to, with images if applicable.
  • Group students intentionally based on academic and language needs.
  • Have students complete the Formative Assessment with a partner.


  • Have students share their answers aloud without referring to the sentence stems/frames for support.
  • Allow learners to utilize glossaries and dictionaries for unfamiliar words.
  • Have learners repeat instructions and key vocabulary for the class.
(5 minutes)
  • Hand out an index card to each student. Instruct them to write their name on it and display a word problem, such as, "Maya is training for a cycling race. Her coach told her she must ride 150 miles in one week. She rode her bicycle 37 miles on Monday, 45 miles on Wednesday, and 29 miles on Friday. She will ride again on Sunday."
  • Have students write the problem question to go with this word problem and then solve it.
  • Ask students to turn in their index cards to check for understanding.
(3 minutes)
  • Return to the language objective. Ask students to read it to themselves and show a thumbs-up if they feel they met the objective, a thumb to the side if they feel they partially met it, and a thumbs-down if they feel they did not meet the objective. Scan the room to determine next teaching steps.
  • Reiterate the key learning points of taking time to read and comprehend all components of a word problem, including the context and keywords, before trying to solve it.

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