Math word problems are challenging at any age, but they’re particularly puzzling to 2nd graders who are just getting a handle on their math skills. Unmasking the mysteries behind those pesky paragraphs, with their mixed-in numbers and crafty questions, will do more than improve your child’s ability to solve the problem. It will also turn math into a fun subject, even a game. Word problems possess a secret code, and math has its own special language. Turn those keywords into clues to decipher the meaning. Homework will no longer be a chore but an opportunity to decode another set of mathematical messages.

**Addition Keywords**

2nd grade math word problems that call for addition are some of the most basic challenges students this age will encounter. They also might be the easiest to understand—consider this example:

*Kieran took 12 books out of the library, Jill checked out 9 books, and Shannon took home 6. How many books did the three kids check out altogether?*

That’s just simple adding: 12+9+6=27. Therefore, looking for keywords—in this case, *altogether*—gives students an instant clue that they will be using their addition skills. Here are a range of addition keywords children might see in second-grade math word problems:

- Total
- Altogether
- Both
- Plus
- Added
- Sum
- Increase
- Together
- Additional
- Join
- In all
- Extra

**Subtraction Keywords**

Subtraction word problems can be trickier, particularly if students are switching gears after mastering addition problems. However, these keywords can give important clues about when to subtract. For example:

*Kavi received 12 Milky Way bars on Halloween and ate 4 of them. How many does he have left?*

*Left* is the clue that the student will be using subtraction. Here is a list of these useful keywords:

- Fewer than
- Less than
- Difference
- Remain
- How many more
- How much less
- Left
- Decrease

**Comparison Keywords**

Consider this word problem:

*Anna has 2 dimes and 3 pennies, Samuel has 4 nickels and 8 pennies, and Kelly has a quarter and a penny. Who has the most money?*

*Most* is the indicator that the problem is calling for a comparison. Of course, some addition is involved here as well, but the final step is determining who is the richest. Here are some comparison keywords that second-graders should look for:

- Most
- More
- Fewest
- Least
- Bigger/biggest
- Smaller/smallest
- Farther/farthest
- Nearer/nearest

What strategies help your child with 2nd grade math word problems? Let Thinkster reveal the advantages of an online math tutor to provide extra help.