Our teacher told us to look for clues in math word problems. What did she mean?

Math word problems contain words or phrases that give clues about how the problem should be solved. Here are some common words or phrases students might encounter:

Addition

Sum as in, The sum of 2, 4, and 6 . . .

Total as in, The total of the first six payments . . .

Addition as in, A recipe calls for the addition of five pints . . .

Plus as in, Three liters plus two liters . . .

Increase as in, Her pay was in,creased by $15 . . .

More than as in, This week the enrollment was eight more than last week

Added to as in, If you added $3 to the cost . . .

Successive as in, The total of six successive payments . . .

Subtraction

Difference as in, What is the difference between . . .

Fewer as in, There were fifteen fewer men than women . . .

Remainder as in, How many are left or what quantity remains . . .

Less as in, A number is five less than another number . . .

Reduced as in, The budget was reduced by $5,000 . . .

Decreased as in, If he decreased the speed of his car by ten miles per hour . . .

Minus as in, Some number minus 9 is . . .

Multiplication

Product as in, The product of 8 and 5 is . . .

Of as in, One-half of the group . . .

Times as in, Five times as many girls as boys . . .

At as in, The cost of ten yards of fabric at $16 a yard is . . .

Total as in, If you spend $25 a week on gas, what is the total for a three-week period . . .

Twice as in, Twice the value of some number . . .

Division

Quotient as in, The final quotient is . . .

Divided by as in, Some number divided by 12 is . . .

Divided into as in, The group was divided into . . .

Ratio as in, What is the ratio of . . .

Half as in, Half the profits are . . . (dividing by 2)

As you work a variety of word problem types, you'll discover more "clue" words.

Be sensitive to what each of these questions is asking. What time? How many? How much? How far? How old? What length? What is the ratio?

With practice, your approach to word problem questions that crop up in homework, on exams, and across standardized tests will add up to two syllables — CAN DO!