5 Essential Math Word Problems IEP Goals | Teach Tastic

Updated: Jun 1

For special education teachers, IEP goals and lesson plans seem to be the bane of our existence. We are often asked to write goals that are impossible to measure and lack creativity. However, writing IEP goals doesn't have to be so difficult. In fact, it can be quite simple if you know what you're doing.

When writing IEP goals for math word problems, you should keep a few things in mind. But first I'll start with a story on how I've tackled writing a few goals myself.

This story begins with me hard at work on just an ordinary day in the life of a sped math teacher. Just when I think I've written the perfect activity for one-to-one correspondence for your kindergarten math skill level students and I'm sitting down organizing a box of manipulatives to start my day. I am slightly proud of myself for being prepared and savoring the brief moment of quiet before students arrive.

Alas, the quiet is broken.

In walks a general education teacher looking for support for word problems. My brain has to code shift at a moment's notice and there I go off and running explaining all the different types of word problems and how I have strategies for teaching each kind.

Subtraction word problems?

Double-digit numbers in word problems?

Two-step word problems?

Word problems for multiplication where a student will identify equal groups?

What kind of math word problems are we talking about here?

She laughs and replies, I'd better take a seat...

There is a great deal of comedy in that line of questioning but in actuality, special education teachers really do have to understand all the grade levels and strategies for teaching word problems and all other math state standards for grades kindergarten through twelfth grade. So I'd like to see this particular or any general education teacher pull that out of their hat.

As the conversation progressed, we got down to two issues her students were struggling with

  1. They are not independently reading the word problem with complete comprehension of the academic (math) vocabulary.

  2. they are not extracting correct information and forming a problem in the correct order.

No matter what type of word problem, these two topics seem universal, so let's get right to plotting solutions. And then we will have a foundation of where to start our iep goal creation and their many objective options.

Practice Solving Word Problems Often

When it comes to math, many students tend to panic at the mere mention of word problems. However, word problems are an essential part of math, and they can be pretty helpful in developing problem-solving skills. For one thing, word problems force students to slow down and read carefully, which is often difficult to do in a fast-paced math class.

In addition, word problems provide a context for understanding how mathematics can be applied in the real world. In other words, solving word problems can help students see that math is not just a bunch of abstract rules but something that can be used to solve real-life problems. As a result, special education teachers need to use word problems whenever possible so that students have ample opportunity to gain confidence and become comfortable with the process.

Word problems are a great way for special education teachers to introduce new skills. They help with engagement by letting students see the relevance in their everyday lives. This allows students to understand how the skill can be applied in practical ways, which inevitably leads to greater buy-in.

There are a variety of ways to incorporate word problems into your instruction. One way is to use them as a daily warm-up. This can be done by writing a word problem on the board or overhead and having students solve it as they come into class. Another way is to use word problems as part of a lesson. For example, if you are teaching addition, you could begin with some basic problems and then gradually introduce more difficult ones. As students become more comfortable with the process, they will be better able to handle more challenging word problems.

No matter how you choose to use them, it is important to provide students with plenty of opportunities to practice solving word problems. The best advice is to not just think about using them but actually do it. Every day and any day is a good day for word problem practice.

Teaching Word Problem Keywords

Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. These are the operations that students must be able to understand and complete in word problems to be successful in mathematics. However, these operations present a great challenge for many special education students. This is due to various factors, including executive functioning deficits and difficulty with abstract concepts. However, there are things that special education teachers can do to help their students be successful with word problems.

One of the most important things that teachers can do is to teach keyword vocabulary and why it is important. Keywords such as increased by, difference between, product of, out of, and is, are essential for understanding word problems. By explicitly teaching these words and their meanings, special education students will better understand the word problems they are presented with. In addition, teachers need to provide concrete examples of word problems that include these keywords. This will help students see how these words are used in context and aid in their understanding.

The following is a list of the most popular keywords for word problems, organized by topic:


  • added to

  • altogether

  • combined

  • comparatives ("greater than", etc)

  • increased by

  • in all

  • more than

  • perimeter

  • plus

  • sum

  • together

  • total of


  • decreased by

  • difference between

  • dropped

  • exceed

  • fewer than

  • greater than

  • how many less