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Talking with kids regularly about 'how many more do you need' or 'how many do you have left over' or other seemingly simple questions when asked regularly can build that basic number sense that helps enormously when word problems and applied math start to show up.There are many tricks for solving word problems that can bridge the gap, and they can be helpful tools if students are either struggling with where to start with a problem or just need a way to check their thinking on a particular problem.
But that's exactly why division word problems can be so useful!
That's a clear example of when paying attention to the language is very important.
One key bit of advice, especially for basic word problems, is to encourage students to draw a picture.
These key words aren't a sure-fire way to know what to do with a problem, but they can be a useful starting point.
For example, phrases like 'combined,' 'total,' 'together' or 'sum' are very often signals that the problem is going to involve addition.