Solving story problems is, well, a problem for me. Can you help?

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.

  1. Determine what is to be solved for; assign that as the variable. (Remember that the variable represents a number, not a person or thing.)
  2. Draw a picture, if called for. Make a chart, if helpful.
  3. Write an equation representing the relationships between the different parts of the problem.
  4. Solve the equation for the variable.
  5. Solve the equation completely. Often, the value of the variable is just one part of the answer.
  6. Check your answer to be sure it makes sense.