Students often struggle with multi-step problems for a lot of reasons. In my experience, the most common one is they stop too soon. For example, in the first lesson below, the student may add up the fractions of the rice gathered by each of the two sisters and stop there. However, the question asks, “How much of the rice is LEFT to gather?”

(If they’re still confused, we have our Start at the End video. You can check that out later.)

A second obstacle is just not knowing how to solve one or more parts of the problem. A student may not understand how to convert a whole number to fraction, for example.

Speaking of examples, I think the more examples students have in the more different contexts, the better. Here are two examples of multi-step word problems with adding and subtracting fractions. We provided these in PowerPoint and PDF because not all schools have a PPT license and sometimes, even if you do, the slides don’t show exactly right on a different computer even though they looked perfect on your computer at home!


 Adding and subtracting fractions Adding and subtracting fractions
 Subtracting fractions Subtracting fractions

Prerequisite information to adding and subtracting fractions with a common denominator

Sometimes, the problem is that a student lacks the prerequisite information. What’s a denominator? How do you add fractions with the same denominator? If you think that’s the case, show the video below first, then move on to the presentation.

Maybe your students know what a numerator and denominator is but they need help converting one to an equivalent fraction – we also have a lesson plan for that.

Learn adding and subtracting fractions with a common denominator in the Fish Lake adventure game!

Fish Lake logo - two Ojibwe men in a canoe

End your class with style learning fractions by playing Fish Lake

Description: In the Fish Lake adventure game, players practice with fractions while learning math problem-solving strategies. The storyline is set in the context of Ojibwe history and culture. Spear fish, hunt deer, pack for a long journey, all of the time learning how to apply fractions in real situations, whether it’s dividing up the work or sharing a pot of stew.

Recommended forGrades 4-6
Math Standards alignmentGrades 4-6
Math topicsFractions
Available foriPads, Mac or Windows computers

NOTE: If you get a message about ‘unidentified developer’ on a Mac, here is how to fix it in 5 seconds or less.

Comments (2)

  1. Teacher Kim


    Thank you so much for sharing this post on how to add and subtract fractions. You have explained it in a very detailed manner. I have been searching reading a lot of ways to add and subtract fractions and encountered only two ways. First is you used the LCM. This is best for smaller fractions. The other is to use butterfly method where you have to cross multiply the fractions. This method is best for bigger fractions and those that has no LCM. If you have doubt you can check your answers using fraction calculator from Their step by step solution will let you guide if you miss a single step. Again thanks for sharing for this valuable information.

    • Christy Hanson


      Thank you for stopping by, Teacher Kim! We have more free lesson slides we just uploaded. We hope to see you again soon. Tell your colleagues to come visit us as well. We have our educational games at the ready for the upcoming year and many are optimized for remote learn-from-home setups. All students need to do is download the game.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *