Solving Technique

There are many types of word problems involving arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and combinations of them with various twists. It is most important to have a systematic technique for solving word problems. Here is such a technique.

  1. First, identify what is being asked. What are you ultimately trying to find? How far a car has traveled? How fast a plane flies? How many items can be purchased? Whatever it is, find it and then circle it. This helps ensure that you are solving for what is being asked.

  2. Next, underline and pull out information you are given in the problem. Draw a picture if you can. This helps you know what you have and will point you to a relationship or equation. Note any key words in the problem.

  3. If you can, set up an equation or some straightforward system with the given information.

  4. Is all the given information necessary to solve the problem? Occasionally, you may be given more than enough information to solve a problem. Choose what you need and don't spend needless energy on irrelevant information.

  5. Carefully solve the equation or work the necessary computation. Be sure you are working in the same units (for example, you may have to change feet into inches, pounds into ounces, and so forth, in order to keep everything consistent).

  6. Did you answer the question? One of the most common errors in answering word problems is the failure to answer what was actually being asked.

  7. And finally, is your answer reasonable? Check to make sure that an error in computation or a mistake in setting up your equation did not give you a ridiculous answer.

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