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Chef Creme Brulee: Word Problems and Equations

Context for this Lesson

School or Organization: 

TOPIC: Relationships between Sets of Data, Multi-Step Problem Solving

GRADE LEVEL: 5th Grade


  • What are the clues in a word problem that helps us solve it?
  • How do we know the order for solving an equation?



§111.17. Grade 5. Mathematics.

Knowledge and Skills: 

  • (4) Algebraic reasoning. The student applies mathematical process standards to develop concepts of expressions and equations.
    • (B) represent and solve multi-step problems involving the four operations with whole numbers using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity
    • (E) describe the meaning of parentheses in a numeric equation

§117.17. Grade 5. Theatre. 

  • (a)(1) Through a variety of theatrical experiences, students communicate in a dramatic form, make artistic choices, solve problems, build positive self-concepts, and relate interpersonally.

Common Core State Standards

Operations and Algebraic Thinking Grade 5 

Write and Interpret Numerica Expressions: 

  • (1) Use parentheses, brackets, or braces in numerical expressions, and evaluate expressions with these symbols.
  • (2)  Write simple expressions that record calculations with numbers, and interpret numerical expressions without evaluating them. 



  • 3 bean bags
  • Costume pieces for both teachers in role
  • Word problem sets and corresponding equations

1. THREE BALL TOSS (15 mins)

Begin tossing one bean bag around the circle in any order. Say the name of the person you are throwing the bag to, establish a pattern. Go through a full round until the bean bag returns to the teacher. 

"Point to the person you are throwing the bag to, and now point to the person who is throwing the ball to you." Continue throwing the bag in the established pattern - do this a few times.  

Add one more bag - pass only this bag around the circle clockwise, once. Do round with both bags. 

"Great work. Let’s talk a little bit about what just happened." 


  • What happened during this game?
  • What were our jobs as players in the game (instructions/tasks)?


  • What did you find challenging about this game?
  • How did we do as we added more balls?
  • What did you find fun about this game?
  • When we play this game again, what are successful techniques that we should use again?
  • How did we work together as a group, or team, to meet the challenge successfully?


  • What was the importance of order in this game? 


For our next activity, we are going to continue thinking about the importance of order. 



TEACHER 1: "Today we are going to work on problem solving and equations. (Teacher 2) and I will be going into role and we will all be participating in an activity that will help us think about how we can figure out the order of solving an equation. When you see (Teacher 2) put on her apron, that will be your sign that she is going into role. When I put on my tutu and fairy wings, you will know that I am going into my role." 

"Students, we have something really important to attend to. My good friend, Chef Creme Brule is in serious trouble! She is catering several parties this weekend and she doesn’t know which party needs which amount of treats. The only information that Chef has is the party’s name and an equation for the amount of different foods needed. This is her biggest job yet and she will get fired it isn’t fixed by the time the Fairy Treat Mother arrives. Do you think you could help Chef with her problem?" 

Enter TEACHER 2 as Chef Creme Brule: "Oh hi friends. I’m so nervous, I’m frantic. I work for a very fancy catering company and I help bake the most magnificent desserts for fairy tale themed parties. This weekend I have my biggest job yet, 7 parties. I’ve never baked for more than 4 in one weekend so I need to make sure I do it right!" 

"Has your teacher told you all about the sticky situation I’m in?" [Take answers from students.] "Yes! I have clues and equations but don’t know which ones go together! If I don’t get this done correctly, I might lose my job and there’s nothing that makes me happier than baking!" 

"I don’t quite know how to solve the clues or the correct order of solving an equation. Do you think you all could help me get this mess sorted out? Great! We are going to solve one together as a group so you can teach me how to do it. And then we’re going to split into groups to save time!" 

[Work through the first clue with the group: 'This party will only have 24 people. The chef will make 3 cupcakes for each person at the party. The cupcakes will be made in batches of 12. Solve for how many trays Chef will need to make and then find an equation that matches to discover which party it is.' Look through the possible equations and find the one that matches.] 

"Oh you all were the right ones to help me! You’re all so smart!" [Checks watch] "Oh no! We’re running out of time! Do you think you can figure the rest out in your groups?" Students will be given ample time [with reminders of the urgency of the situation] to solve the clues and match them to the right equation.

Side-Coaching Questions:

  • How can we make sure everyone’s voice/opinion is heard?
  • What is the information in the clue?
  • What are the different ways we can match the clue to the equation?
  • What is the order of solving this equation?
  • What do you solve first?
  • How did you know that?

TEACHER 1 barges in as the Fairy Treat Mother:

FAIRY TREAT MOTHER: "Chef Creme Brule! Did you get this mess sorted out?" 

CHEF: "Well I got these excellent helpers!" 

FAIRY TREAT MOTHER: "I’ve heard enough! You—which order did you figure out?" [Boss will question the students as to how/why/what clues allowed them to match the clues with the orders. After each party order, she will “call” the office and tell them to fill in the missing numbers from the order.] "Thanks for your help! I have to go make sure all the orders are made correctly. Chef you were able to get everything back on track!"

CHEF: "Thanks for all of your help!" 

Chef and Fairy Treat Mother step out of role.


3. REFLECT (5 min)


  • What did we do in our work together today?
  • What skills allowed you to be successful in our work?


  • How did these activities help you to think differently about our math concepts?
  • Did you make any discoveries about them?
  • Did anything become easier to know?


  • Where else do we use clues to solve problems in our lives?