Story problems or "practical applications" are among the best uses for the techniques learned in algebra. Not many places of business will require you to solve a quadratic equation as a daily chore. But problem solving — determining solutions to practical everyday challenges — is something that everyone faces, no matter what the occupation.
There are some basic steps to follow that should help you when faced with a story problem.
- Determine what is to be solved for; assign that as the variable. (Remember that the variable represents a number, not a person or thing.)
- Draw a picture, if called for. Make a chart, if helpful.
- Write an equation representing the relationships between the different parts of the problem.
- Solve the equation for the variable.
- Solve the equation completely. Often, the value of the variable is just one part of the answer.
- Check your answer to be sure it makes sense.