Open Ended Word Problem: Complex, Multi-Step Challenge (Grade 3-5)



In Doggy Dilemma, students are finally allowed to get a dog! They can choose from three dogs and then must create a dog pen for the backyard. They will calculate the area and perimeter as well as the cost of the project.

Why work on open ended problems?

If you’ve been paying attention to the assessments that are following the Common Core State Standards, then you know that we need to raise rigor in our classrooms when it comes to problem solving. These problems will help prepare students for performance task assessments.

What is an open ended problem?

An open ended problem (sometimes called a performance task) is a full page (or more) of reading to help students practice reading for understanding in math problems. The problems are open ended, meaning that students can come to more than one answer. The problems are deep, multi-step and require perseverance. You will notice that the Standards for Mathematical Practice are embedded within the problem. Some of my problems also include writing, like this one.

What age group is this most appropriate for?

This challenge is appropriate for end of the year 3rd grade (or gifted 3rd graders anytime), 4th grade and possibly for struggling 5th graders.

How and when do you use this problem type in class?

It could be used as an assessment, a partner activity, for small group work, as work for students who have finished assignments early or for gifted and talented small groups. Each problem most likely will take more than one class period to complete. When I did this problem it took me 30 minutes and I should admit that I was rushing!

The first time I did an open ended problem with my third graders, we did it together as a whole group. We went through it and talked about the complexity, did a close reading of it and then attempted another one on our own after that. You know your class best!

Additional information

Answer Key

Rubric Only

File Type

PDF (Acrobat) Document File

Grade Levels

, ,

Resource Type



Teaching Duration

2 hours

Total Pages

8 pages


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