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CUBES Math Strategy

Written by: Angie Olson

Students seem to see a story problem and freeze.  Story problems prove to be a tough concept for students to grasp.  The CUBES math strategy is a great tool for students to have to help successfully solve story problems.

What is the CUBES Math Strategy

The CUBES math strategy is a simple tool that teachers can teach their students to provide them with step-by-step actionable steps to pick apart and understand what is being asked in a story problem.  Each letter of CUBES stands for an actionable item that students will do to their word problems.

Disclaimer:  I'm not an advocate for using the CUBES strategy as the ONLY strategy to solve story problems.  I do believe that other strategies such as make a list, draw a picture, guess and check, act it out, make a table, use objects, and write a number sentence are just a few that need to be taught first.

C is for Circle the Numbers

After students read through the word problem the first time, instruct them to go back through and circle all of the numbers or number words in the story.

U is for Underline the Question

The next step is for the students to underline the question that is found within the story problem.  Teach the students to think about the question and decide what exactly the question is asking them to do with the numbers.

B is for Box the Key Words

When students draw a box around the key words, they are often found within the question that was just underlined.  This step can be a bit tricky in certain situations.  For example:  “John has 16 green apples.  He has 4 more green apples than red.  How many red apples does John have?”  In this instance, the students need to stop and think…”What is the question asking?” or “What does the question want to know?”

E is for Eliminate the Extra Information

Some K-2 teachers choose to skip the E step and some find it beneficial.  This step requires the students to go back into the story problem to decide if there is any information that can be skipped or ignored.

S is for Solve and Check the Problem

After the students have gone through the CUBES math strategy steps, they have worked with the story problem quite a bit.  They have gained a solid understanding of what the story problem is about and what is being asked.  The final step is to take the numbers, decide what to do with the numbers, solve, and then check.  Teach students to ask themselves, “Does the answer make sense?”

Anchor Chart and Free Student Template

An anchor chart is a great way to teach and display the CUBES math strategy in the classroom.  Here is a student anchor chart template that you can give your students to fill out when you are going over the anchor chart with the class.

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1. Our math coach just taught my students this! THANK YOU!

• Good! Nice job learning it!!

2. OMG, I love this! This is a better version of the way I was teaching a similar strategy. Thank you so much for sharing!

3. Good job!!

4. This was amazing for our math project we were doing in 8th grade

5. I already do this but I like the ACRONYM and the easy to use format.

6. What do you do when you get to two-step problems? What do you do when there isn’t a key word? Does “altogether” mean you are to add or to multiply? Does “more” mean add (7 more bears came) or does it mean subtract (How many more horses were in the field with the cows than in the field with the sheep?) If you are not expecting that the students read the word problem, how are they to determine what information is not necessary?

Do you have any idea how hard it is to work through word problems with 3rd or 4th graders who leaned CUBES in K-2?

• ​Hi! We would love to help you with this question, please email us at customerservice@luckylittlelearners.com and we will do our best to answer it for you! Thanks so much!

Bailey Jordan
Lucky Little Learners