Demystifying Math Word Problems: Book Review

Math Word Problems in Literature by Denise Gaskins

By Kathy Kuhl, a preview of Math Word Problems from Literature

Word problems should be the most practical part of math. They should answer the perennial question, “What good is this?” Yet they are often the most hated math. Why? Students don’t know how to solve them.

So Denise Gaskins has written an expanded and updated version of Math Word Problems in Literature. Denise understands that students and many parents don’t get how to apply math. So she offers practical tools and examples to illustrate the techniques.

What’s inside?

In Math Word Problems in Literature and the optional companion workbook, Denise Gaskins teaches us and our kids how to use bar model diagrams to help us visualize math problems. From Mr. Popper’s Penguins, to The Chronicles of Narnia to The Lord of the Rings, she uses beloved books to illustrate techniques and train us. With her, we learn not only to solve these problems, but to create our own.

I’ve only read the 14-page sample you can download at the link below, but I’ve read enough of her work to think Denise Gaskins’ updated book will be worth your time. As a parent of struggling learner, it’s especially helpful to learn to write your own problems, because once of my kids always needed extra practice to “get it.”

Who wrote Math Word Problems in Literature?

Denise Gaskins, homeschool mom and math teacher, realized too many people don’t see that math is fundamentally playing with numbers and patterns. Word problems should be intriguing puzzles. But if we don’t have the right tools, word problems intimidate instead of intrigue.

How Denise Gaskins can help you help your struggling student

Writing word problems is a great way to learn to solve them. It’s one of many tools I’ve learned from Denise Gaskins over the years.

Over twenty years ago, I bought my first Gaskins book, Aha! How to Teach Math so Kids Get It. I was delighted. She’s written many since, covering everything from counting through algebra and beyond. She always emphasizes exploration, games, and patterns—finding pleasure in mathematics.

Her website,, offers many great resources on teaching math. One of the most useful may be her index of math teaching and math practice resources on the internet. See her Internet Math Resources.

(If you prefer to buy her older books on Amazon, this affiliate link will send me a small commission, without costing you an extra penny.)

Preorder Math Word Problems in Literature today

Today, Denise launched a Kickstarter to produce this next bookShe met her funding goal in five hours, and with the extra support she received she will add to the book.

  • For as little as $2, you can follow along and learn helpful tips.
  • For $10, you can get this book as an ebook (epub, mobi, or printable PDF) once the funding goal is reached.
  • For a little more, you can get a print copy, a separate student workbook, an audio companion, and more.

You can order the book, support the project, or just download the free sample here. (I get no benefit from your supporting Denise’s Kickstarter, nothing beyond the pleasure of introducing you to this helpful resource.)

Another post of mine related to word problems is here,

I’ve written about another book of Denise’s here. 

All my math workshop handouts are here. 

What helps you teach your children word problems? Please comment below.

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