top of page

Using Retelling in Math to Solve Word Problems

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Teach young learners how to use retelling to solve word problems

This past January I started teaching from my classroom with my students and if I'm honest, things are not the same.

Centers look different, read alouds look different, even small groups look different. EVERYTHING IS SO DIFFERENT!

Although my classroom and routines look and feel different, what I teach hasn't changed.

In math, K-1 students are still expected to learn how to solve word problems and in literacy they are still expected to retell stories.

And do you know what I still love to do?

If you guessed integrate math and reading, you guessed correctly!

During the winter months we dive into problem solving and I always use retelling to help my learners reframe the way they view word problems.


For some children, word problems can be quite confusing. I've found that when they think of the problem as a story they enjoy doing them.

My favorite book to use to start our deep dive is The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll.

This fun read aloud is about two characters who enter their towns competition for building the biggest snowman.

After reading this to my students we discuss the important events that occur in the story and I list them on my (now digital) anchor chart.

Once students have shared, we sort the events into the order of which they happened at the bottom of the chart.

I stress the importance of the order of events and how it helps the story make sense.

To close the lesson, my students draw a picture of an event that happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

Making the Connection to Math

Now let's talk about how I tie it to math.

During my math block I refer back to the reading lesson by saying "Earlier today we worked on retelling a story. We pulled out the important things that happened in the story and put them in order. Now we are going to do the same thing with math stories. Math stories are called word problems."

From there I present my students with either an add to or take from word problem.

I read the problem to my students and then inform them that we will draw the events that happen in the story with the information that is provided.

Using the following word problem as an example, I would ask my student what happened at the beginning of the story and draw 2 circles, then I would ask what happened next and draw 5 more circles, and lastly I tell my students that since we do not know the answer to the question which is the end of the story, I am going to draw a question mark.

After all pictures are drawn, I encourage students to listen to the word problem again so that we can determine whether we need to write a subtraction sentence or addition sentence to match our story.

We do this for a few problems in the form of gradual release. Once I see that my students have somewhat of an understanding then I give them time to work with those at their table.

For students who are still struggling I sanitize my small group table and allow them to work with me 2 at a time.

Want to give this a try with your students?

Here's all of the resources that you'll need to get started. This starter kit includes:

  • (1) Digital anchor chart preloaded into Google Jamboard

  • (4) Digital word problem task cards preloaded into Google Jamboard

  • Link to The Biggest Snowman Ever read aloud on YouTube

  • Link to a simple tutorial on how to use Google Jamboard

Be sure to take pictures and tag me on social media when you use this resource with your students. On all social platforms you can find me with @MissDGunn and I'll be sure to interact with your content.


Miss D. Gunn

For this blog post I have teamed up with The Reading Crew again for a fantastic giveaway so click through the raffle-a-copter below to grab even more freebies.


Here are a few more goodies I don't want you to miss out on!

Click to head to my TeachersPayTeachers store to grab these two goodies at 50% off from now until Feb. 7, 2021! Use the hashtag #READINGCREWDEALS2021 to quickly find all 1/2 priced resources.

565 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page