Numberless Word Problems

Have you ever said or thought any of the following?

  • “They just add all the numbers! It doesn’t matter what the problem says.”
  • “They don’t stop to think! They just start computing as soon as they’re done reading the problem.”
  • “They don’t even realize this is exactly the same type of situation as the problem we did yesterday!”

Then you might be interested in trying out numberless word problems with your students. You read that right, numberless word problems.

In essence, numberless word problems are designed to provide scaffolding that allows students the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the underlying structure of word problems. This page is a collection of resources to help you learn about numberless word problems and help you start using them in your classroom. Also be sure to check out other’s experiences and share your own using the #numberlesswp hashtag on Twitter.

My Blog Posts

I’ve written about numberless word problems at various points on my blog. Check them out to learn more and to get advice for starting to use them yourself.

  • Numberless Word Problems – This is the initial post I wrote about numberless word problems. It tells the story of my co-worker Regina Payne and how she got the idea for using them in our school district.
  • Writing Numberless Word Problems – This is a good “how-to” post if you’re interested in creating your own numberless problems, especially shifting existing word problems into this structure. I especially like this post for the suggestions about how you can ask different questions using the same original prompt.
  • Purposeful Numberless Word Problems – This post details my work creating the problem banks below. There’s some good advice in here if you plan to use any of my problem banks.
  • The Annotated Numberless Word Problem – This post shares my thought process as I craft a numberless word problem, especially since my thinking about how to craft them has evolved over the past few years.
  • Trick or Treat! – This post shares my first attempt at a twist on numberless word problems – a numberless graph! This post talks about how I would lead the discussion in a grade 4 or 5 classroom. If you’re interested in using this exact graph, it’s linked in the “Other” section below.
  • The Slow Reveal – Some of my colleagues have since tried out numberless graphs. Each of them blogged about their experiences and I collected them together in this post.
  • Doing Math with #ElemMathChat – This post isn’t about numberless word problems per se, but I did share a numberless graph that I used during our chat.
  • Complementary Angles Podcast – I was recently invited on a podcast to talk about my work with numberless word problems.

Problem Banks

Below are banks of problems organized around the CGI problem types. Each problem bank includes 10 problems. In the notes section on each slide are sample discussion questions because numberless word problems are only as effective as the conversation you and your students have as you reveal each slide one at a time. By the way, you are welcome to download these files and edit them. If you have Google Drive, you can make a copy of the file and then it becomes editable since it’s now your own personal copy.

Addition and Subtraction Problem Types

Multiplication and Division Problem Types


Blog Post Collection

Would you like to hear how other educators have used numberless word problems? You’re in luck! I’m collecting their blog posts here so we can all learn from one another. Enjoy!

If you write a blog post and would like me to include it here, just fill out this form. You can also share pictures and other resources using the #numberlesswp hashtag.