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Struggling with math story problems? CUBES to the Rescue!

If your class struggles with solving math word problems, you’ve come to the right place.

Using the CUBES or CUBED problem-solving strategy for math story problems will help your students focus on the steps they need to solve word problems.

CUBES posters for math problem solving
Click on the image to view this resource.

We love math story problems!

Everyone does love word problems – right?


I get it. they can be difficult for students, and some teachers aren’t sure how to help. That’s tough.


Math story problems key word posters
Math keywords posters

I like to use the CUBES/CUBED method.

I introduce the CUBES/CUBED math strategy early in the school year. With younger students, it’s important to use controlled math story problems as they learn the procedure. By controlled math word problems, I mean basic problems that will probably result in success for students. It’s important that students experience success to build their confidence and motivation to learn.

As we move deeper into the school year, we encounter more challenging, multi-step word problems. Depending on your math series, you may encounter the “Throw it all at you” style of word problems. These word problems jam tons of overwhelming information into one problem. You know, the problems with lots of steps and lots of words.

The “Throw it all at you” problems bring students and assignments to a screeching halt. Often, my students became totally bogged down by the multi-step problems requiring organized thinking that they hadn’t yet developed.

Student reference bookmark featuring CUBES story problem strategy
Tape these reference bookmarks into student folders!

CUBES Math story problem strategy

Students need a strategy and organized method of approaching these math story problems to avoid the overwhelming feeling of fear and dread. Without a plan,
students just pull the numbers out of the word problem and add them together. We’ve all been there, right? When students didn’t know whether to add, subtract, multiply, or divide, they randomly picked one.

Below is a bulletin board using posters from the CUBES Strategy Posters for solving math story problems. Bulletin boards and teacher-created anchor charts make great reference tools for students.

Old picture, but you get the idea!

math strategy posters for bulletin boards
CUBES or CUBED math word problem reference bulletin board

Teachers can choose their favorite method.

The more traditional CUBES method uses these steps:

1. Circle the numbers
2. Underline the question
3. Box the keywords
4. Eliminate what you don’t need
5. Solve and Label  (I added “label” because we all require it – don’t we?)


Or you can choose the newer CUBED method, which stands for:

1. Circle the numbers
2. Underline the question
3. Box the keywords
4. Eliminate what you don’t need
5. Draw a picture (which is often seen in the Common Core State Standards)

CUBES – or CUBED – Poster Resources

Whichever method you prefer, you’re covered because there are poster sets for both versions.

Math story problem solving strategy posters featuring CUBES
Click on the image to view this resource.

All of the posters in the picture above are included. In addition, you receive mini-posters so each student can have their own copy. The mini-posters can be laminated, handed out to students, and attached to their math folders or binders to use as a reference tool at home.

CUBES math word problems mini reference cards for students
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A basic, smaller-sized poster set is also included for smaller class displays.

Small sized CUBES math word problem solving strategy poster


These posters feature a clean, updated/modern look:

CUBES and CUBED math word problem strategy posters
Click to learn about this resource

More articles about the CUBES strategy

Want to learn even more about the CUBES math word problem-solving strategy? See my feature article “How to Teach Math Word Problems.”