## 5 Easy Steps to Solving Word Problems

Word problems strike fear into the hearts of many students, and the trauma can even carry into adulthood. This is why word problems are the topic of many education jokes.

“If two trains start at the same station and travel in opposite directions at the same speed, when will the bacon be ready for breakfast?”

This is obviously a silly scenario, but it shows how word problems are regarded by many: a mangle of confusion that doesn’t make sense and can’t be solved!

## Why Are Word Problems Difficult for Children?

Why can word problems be so confusing and scary? There are a few possible reasons.

• Word problems are often introduced to us at an age before our skills of abstract thinking are fully developed. However, a student’s imagination is a great asset to use in understanding word problems!
• Word problems are sometimes simply included as the “harder problems” at the end of homework assignments and the student is never really taught how to approach them.
• It is sometimes ignored that a student’s math and reading ability come into play when word problems are assigned. But if the second grade math student is still only reading on a first-grade level, he will have difficulty solving word problems even if he is otherwise good at math! It can thus be helpful to assess both a student’s math and reading ability to set him up for success. The tutoring service provided by masterygenius.com is a great option since both math and reading skills can be addressed.

## A quick tip before we get started…

Explain to students that the word “problem” really means “question.” A word problem is just asking a question to which the students must find an answer. Show them that you need to identify the question before you even worry about which math operations are going to be used. Word problems can be treated like mysteries: the students are the detectives that are going to use the clues in the question to find the answer!

So what are the five easy steps to solving word problems? Let’s take a look!

## Five Easy Steps to Solving Word Problems (WASSP)

• Write (or draw) what you know.
• Set up a math problem that could answer the question.
• Solve the math problem to get an answer.
• Put the answer in a sentence to see if the answer makes sense!

Let’s look at an example word problem to demonstrate these steps.

Matt has twelve cookies he can give to his friends during lunchtime. If Matt has three friends sitting at his table, how many cookies can Matt give to each of his friends?

## 1. Write (or draw) what you know.

It is important to convince students that they do not have to immediately know what math operation is required to solve the problem. They first need only understand the scenario itself. In this example, the student could simply write down “12 cookies” and “3 friends,” or draw Matt with 12 cookies sitting at a table with three other children.

Again, we don’t need to know what the math operation is yet! We just need to identify what is actually being asked. What do we NOT know?

The student could write, “How many cookies can each of Matt’s friends have?”

Alternatively, the student could draw a question mark over each friend’s head, maybe with a thought bubble of a cookie!

## 3. Set up a math problem that could answer the question.

• It can be a good idea to teach students “clue” words or phrases in problems which can identify what math operation may be needed. However, this should not be the student’s only skill for deciding what math operation to use, because these “clue” words can sometimes be confusing. For example, the phrases “how many in all” and “how many more” seem very similar to a student, but the first phrase indicates addition and the second phrase indicates subtraction!
• It is good for a student to also be able to reason what math operation is needed based on understanding the scenario itself (which is a better builder of true critical thinking skills). This is why the first two steps (write what you know and ask the question) are so important. The student that has a true understanding of the scenario will be better equipped to reason what math operation is needed.

In this example, the “clue” word (if you are using that method of reasoning) would be “each,” which indicates division. Or, the student could understand that Matt has to split, or divide, the cookies among his friends. Thus a division problem is needed!

Dividing 12 cookies among 3 friends means 12 is divided by 3.

## 4. Solve the problem.

It is important to note that using units can be a good idea . Otherwise, the answer could be misunderstood. Is it 4 cookies, or 4 friends, or something else?

## 5. Put the answer in a sentence to see if the answer makes sense.

“Each of Matt’s friends can have four cookies.”

Does this answer make sense? It seems reasonable. How could this step help identify an incorrect answer?

What if the student had decided this was a multiplication problem?

If the student then writes a sentence using the answer, he may realize the answer can’t be right.

“Each of Matt’s friends can have 36 cookies.”

How would that be possible if Matt only had 12 cookies to start with? This must not be a multiplication problem. Let’s try again!

## Practice the Five Easy Steps for Word-Problem Success!

Steps 1 and 2 ( Write what you know and Ask the question) help the student gain an understanding of the scenario.

Steps 3 and 4 ( Set up the math problem and Solve the problem) can be more easily navigated with critical thinking once the scenario is understood.

Step 5 ( Put the answer in a sentence) can help the student decide whether the answer makes sense.

Make sure to start at the student’s level of understanding so he can experience success and build confidence, moving on to more challenging problems as appropriate. Customized curriculum is always best, which again makes masterygenius.com a great option if tutoring is needed. Students are assessed and then matched with a curriculum that strikes balance between building confidence and tackling challenges, leading to topic mastery.

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## 4 Simple Steps to Solve a Word Problem

It might seem obvious that we need to start the problem solving process by reading the problem, but the reality is that students want to start doing something with the numbers before they finish reading. I require my students to set down their pencil or dry erase marker and read the entire problem. I ask them to visualize what the problem is stating rather than trying to form a plan to solve. I have found that they are much more successful when they really think about what they know BEFORE they start drawing and solving.

After my students have read through the entire problem once, they will begin rereading the problem. This time, I ask that they just read one sentence or phrase at a time. They should draw a math model as they read. The models tend to be much more accurate if students are only reading one piece of the problem at a time. However, sometimes they will get to the end of the problem and discover that their model is not going to help them solve. That’s okay! Use the power of the eraser! I call them models rather than drawings because I want my students to understand that math models are not the same as a picture you might draw in art class. No one needs to be an artist in math class!

Models that my students might draw (because I have modeled them): Equal Group Pictures Tape Diagrams (also known as Bar Modeling) Number Bonds Arrays Number Lines

Most students want to jump to writing an equation or number sentence, but in my class, it can’t be done until the model is drawn. Once the model is drawn students can better understand what the unknown is and write a number sentence that will help them to accurately solve the word problem. I always remind my students that they need to examine the model before writing the equation. After they solve the equation they need to ask if it is reasonable and then put it back into their model to check for accuracy.

## You may also enjoy these posts

September 9, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Love this! Do you have the signs of the steps to hang up?

September 10, 2015 at 12:39 am

I like these steps and that you display them. Something so easy, yet brilliant!

Tina Crofts' Classroom

September 10, 2015 at 12:44 pm

I happened to chance upon your blog and found it very interesting!

We have recently launched a science app that uses augmented reality to enhance classroom teaching. The app has 3D models for kindergarten to grade 12. I thought you might want to check it out and may be review it on your blog, if possible.

It is a paid app(with a few models free) but in case you are interested in trying it out I will be happy to provide you with a free copy.

The link to the app is:

You can also search for the app on the app store as 'Augmenter'.

Do let me know if you would be interested. I am really Looking forward to your response.

happy teaching!

Antara [email protected] http://augmenterapp.com/

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

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• Connecting with Students Online with Jennifer Serravallo
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## 5 Easy Steps to Solve Any Word Problem in Math

• February 27, 2021

Picture this my teacher besties.  You are solving word problems in your math class and every student, yes every student knows how to solve word problems without immediately entering a state of confusion!  They know how to attack the problem head-on and have a method to solve every single problem that is presented to them.

## How Do You Solve Word Problems in Math?

Ask yourself this, what do you think is the #1 phrase a student says as soon as they see a word problem?

You guessed it, my teacher friend,  I don’t know how to do this!  I think the most common question I get when I’m teaching my math classes, is how do I solve this?

Students see word problems and immediately enter freak-out mode!  Let’s take solving word problems in the classroom and make it easier for students to SOLVE the problem!

## How to Solve Word Problems Step by Step

There are so many methods   that students can choose from when learning how to solve word problems.  The 4 step method is the foundation for all of the methods that you will see, but what about a variation of the 4 step method that every student can do just because they get it.

Students are most likely confused about how to solve word problems because they have never used a consistent method over the years.   I’m all about consistency in my classroom.  Fortunately, in my school district, I get to teach most of the students year after year because of how small our class sizes are.   So I’m going to give you a method based on the 4 step method, that allows all students to be successful at solving word problems.

Even the most unmotivated math student will learn how to solve word problems and not skip them!

## Tips, Tricks, and  Teaching Strategies to Solving Word Problems in Math

Going back to the 4 step method just in case you need a refresher.  If you know me at all a little reminder of “oh yeah I remember that now” always helps me!

4 steps in solving word problems in math:

• Understand the Problem
• Plan the solution
• Solve the Problem
• Check the solution

This 4 step method is the basis of the method I’m going to tell you all about.  The problem isn’t with the method itself, it is the fact that most students see word problems and just start panicking!

Why can they do an entire assignment and then see a word problem and then suddenly stop?  Is there a reason why books are designed with word problems at the end?

These are questions that I constantly have asked myself over the last several years.  I finally got to the point where my students needed a consistent approach to solving word problems that worked every single time.

The first thing I knew I needed to start doing was introducing students to word problems at the beginning of each lesson.

Once students first see the word problems at the beginning of the lesson, they are less likely to be scared of them when it comes time to do it by themselves!

This also will increase their confidence in the classroom.  In case you missed it, I shared all about how I increase my students’ confidence in the classroom.

Wonder how increasing their confidence will help keep them motivated in the classroom?

So confident motivated students will see word problems that could be on their homework, any standardized test, and say I GOT THIS!

## Steps to Solving Word Problems in Mathematics

We are ready to SOLVE any word problem our students are going to encounter in math class.

Here are my 5 easy steps to SOLVE any word problem in math:

• S – State the objective
• O – Outline your plan
• L – Look for Key Details – Information
• V –  Verify and Solve
• E – Explain and check your solution

Do you want to learn how to implement this 5 steps problem-solving strategy into your classroom?  I’m hosting a FREE workshop all about how to implement this strategy in your classroom!

I am so excited to be offering a workshop to increase students’ confidence in solving word problems.  The workshop is held in my Facebook Group The Round Robin Math Community. It also will be sent straight to your inbox and you can watch it right now!

If you’re interested, join today and all the details will be sent to you ASAP!

I will see you there!

PS.  Need the SOLVE method for your bulletin board for your students’ math journals/notebooks?  Check out this bulletin board resource here:

Love, Robin

• Latest Posts

## Robin Cornecki

Latest posts by robin cornecki ( see all ).

• The #1 method for finding slope without using a formula! - April 25, 2023
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• How to use the Four-Function Calculator for the Praxis Core Math Test.  - April 23, 2022

## Hi, I'm Robin!

I am a secondary math teacher with over 19 years of experience! If you’re a teacher looking for help with all the tips, tricks, and strategies for passing the praxis math core test, you’re in the right place!

I also create engaging secondary math resources for grades 7-12!

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## It’s one thing to solve a math equation when all of the numbers are given to you but with word problems, when you start adding reading to the mix, that’s when it gets especially tricky.

The simple addition of those words ramps up the difficulty (and sometimes the math anxiety) by about 100!

How can you help your students become confident word problem solvers? By teaching your students to solve word problems in a step by step, organized way, you will give them the tools they need to solve word problems in a much more effective way.

## Here are the seven strategies I use to help students solve word problems.

1. read the entire word problem.

Before students look for keywords and try to figure out what to do, they need to slow down a bit and read the whole word problem once (and even better, twice). This helps kids get the bigger picture to be able to understand it a little better too.

## 2. Think About the Word Problem

Students need to ask themselves three questions every time they are faced with a word problem. These questions will help them to set up a plan for solving the problem.

## Here are the questions:

A. what exactly is the question.

What is the problem asking? Often times, curriculum writers include extra information in the problem for seemingly no good reason, except maybe to train kids to ignore that extraneous information (grrrr!). Students need to be able to stay focused, ignore those extra details, and find out what the real question is in a particular problem.

## B. What do I need in order to find the answer?

Students need to narrow it down, even more, to figure out what is needed to solve the problem, whether it’s adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, or some combination of those. They’ll need a general idea of which information will be used (or not used) and what they’ll be doing.

This is where key words become very helpful. When students learn to recognize that certain words mean to add (like in all, altogether, combined ), while others mean to subtract, multiply, or to divide, it helps them decide how to proceed a little better

Here’s a Key Words Chart I like to use for teaching word problems. The handout could be copied at a smaller size and glued into interactive math notebooks. It could be placed in math folders or in binders under the math section if your students use binders.

One year I made huge math signs (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and divide symbols) and wrote the keywords around the symbols. These served as a permanent reminder of keywords for word problems in the classroom.

## C. What information do I already have?

This is where students will focus in on the numbers which will be used to solve the problem.

## 3. Write on the Word Problem

This step reinforces the thinking which took place in step number two. Students use a pencil or colored pencils to notate information on worksheets (not books of course, unless they’re consumable). There are lots of ways to do this, but here’s what I like to do:

• Circle any numbers you’ll use.
• Lightly cross out any information you don’t need.
• Underline the phrase or sentence which tells exactly what you’ll need to find.

## 4. Draw a Simple Picture and Label It

Drawing pictures using simple shapes like squares, circles, and rectangles help students visualize problems. Adding numbers or names as labels help too.

For example, if the word problem says that there were five boxes and each box had 4 apples in it, kids can draw five squares with the number four in each square. Instantly, kids can see the answer so much more easily!

## 5. Estimate the Answer Before Solving

Having a general idea of a ballpark answer for the problem lets students know if their actual answer is reasonable or not. This quick, rough estimate is a good math habit to get into. It helps students really think about their answer’s accuracy when the problem is finally solved.

## 6. Check Your Work When Done

This strategy goes along with the fifth strategy. One of the phrases I constantly use during math time is, Is your answer reasonable ? I want students to do more than to be number crunchers but to really think about what those numbers mean.

Also, when students get into the habit of checking work, they are more apt to catch careless mistakes, which are often the root of incorrect answers.

## 7. Practice Word Problems Often

Just like it takes practice to learn to play the clarinet, to dribble a ball in soccer, and to draw realistically, it takes practice to become a master word problem solver.

When students practice word problems, often several things happen. Word problems become less scary (no, really).

They start to notice similarities in types of problems and are able to more quickly understand how to solve them. They will gain confidence even when dealing with new types of word problems, knowing that they have successfully solved many word problems in the past.

## If you’re looking for some word problem task cards, I have quite a few of them for 3rd – 5th graders.

This 3rd grade math task cards bundle has word problems in almost every one of its 30 task card sets..

There are also specific sets that are dedicated to word problems and two-step word problems too. I love these because there’s a task card set for every standard.

This 4th Grade Math Task Cards Bundle also has lots of word problems in almost every single of its 30 task card sets. These cards are perfect for centers, whole class, and for one on one.

## Want to try a FREE set of math task cards to see what you think?

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• How do you solve word problems?
• To solve word problems start by reading the problem carefully and understanding what it's asking. Try underlining or highlighting key information, such as numbers and key words that indicate what operation is needed to perform. Translate the problem into mathematical expressions or equations, and use the information and equations generated to solve for the answer.
• How do you identify word problems in math?
• Word problems in math can be identified by the use of language that describes a situation or scenario. Word problems often use words and phrases which indicate that performing calculations is needed to find a solution. Additionally, word problems will often include specific information such as numbers, measurements, and units that needed to be used to solve the problem.
• Is there a calculator that can solve word problems?
• Symbolab is the best calculator for solving a wide range of word problems, including age problems, distance problems, cost problems, investments problems, number problems, and percent problems.
• What is an age problem?
• An age problem is a type of word problem in math that involves calculating the age of one or more people at a specific point in time. These problems often use phrases such as 'x years ago,' 'in y years,' or 'y years later,' which indicate that the problem is related to time and age.

word-problems-calculator

• Middle School Math Solutions – Simultaneous Equations Calculator Solving simultaneous equations is one small algebra step further on from simple equations. Symbolab math solutions... Read More

## The Joy of Teaching

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## How to Solve Word Problems in 3 Simple Steps

July 23, 2018 by Evan-Moor | 0 comments

## 3-Step System

• Read the problem 2 times or more.
• Underline or circle key words, phrases, and numbers. Draw a line through irrelevant information.

2. Plan: Think about what the story is asking you to do. What information are you given, and what do you need to find out?

• Draw a picture.
• Circle or underline key words. (Use highlighters or crayons to color-code key numbers and phrases.)
• Write out the question in your own words.

3. Solve: What strategy could you use to find the missing information: addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division?

• Write a number sentence and solve.
• Use counters.
• Create charts.

## Different Strategies to Solve Word Problems

Everyone learns in a different way. What makes sense to one individual often isn’t the easiest option for another. Incorporating different strategies to solve word problems can help your child discover what strategy works best for him or her. A few tips to use are:

1. Circle numbers in a story and underline key phrases.

Color coding is a fun method to incorporate to help children decide what operation the question is asking for. Assign a color to each operation and highlight the phrase that identifies it. For example, red links to addition and blue links to subtraction.

2. Incorporate a key word list.

Key word lists are best used for teaching younger children how to solve word problems. As math curriculum advances, children should not be dependent on a key word list to solve a problem. The questions get trickier.

Addition In all Together Total Altogether Combine Sum Join

Subtraction Difference Fewer How many more How much more Left Remain Less

If your child is a visual learner, drawing a picture or using counters can help him or her understand what the problem is asking. Use number lines, charts, or counters or draw a picture.

4. Write your own word problem. Knowing what is needed to write a word problem is the first step in identifying key words to solve a story. Take turns writing your own word problems with your child and exchange them to solve.

5. Stay organized.

It is important to write clearly and keep work space neat so children can read and follow their own computations. Many children need a separate piece of paper to allow them enough space to solve and understand their answer. Graphing paper is a great option to help students record neat work.

## How to solve a two-step word problem

In a two-step word problem children are being asking to solve two related equations. These can get tricky for children to understand when they transition from one-step to two-step problems. Help your child understand his or her relationships within two-step word problems with these strategies:

1. Circle important information.

Circle numbers and important phrases that ask questions. The number sentences needed to solve these equations are hidden in those asking questions. Identify the first and second questions needed to solve.

2. Distinguish the two parts of the problem.

First identify the first step of the first part of the word problem. Write a number sentence and solve.

3. Use the answer from the first-step solution to the whole problem.

Use the answer from the first question to help you solve the next equation. What operation does the second question require?

Evan-Moor’s Math Fundamentals is a great resource for training students how to solve word problems in 3 simple steps. It provides step-by-step directions for solving questions and guides children with helpful visuals and key phrases.

Check out Daily Word Problems for consistent practice solving word problems.

For more fun math tips and strategies check out our Math- Ideas, Activities and Lessons Pinterest Board .

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## Praxis Core Math

Course: praxis core math   >   unit 1.

• Algebraic properties | Lesson
• Algebraic properties | Worked example
• Solution procedures | Lesson
• Solution procedures | Worked example
• Equivalent expressions | Lesson
• Equivalent expressions | Worked example
• Creating expressions and equations | Lesson
• Creating expressions and equations | Worked example

## Algebraic word problems | Lesson

• Algebraic word problems | Worked example
• Linear equations | Lesson
• Linear equations | Worked example
• Quadratic equations | Worked example

## What are algebraic word problems?

What skills are needed.

• Translating sentences to equations
• Solving linear equations with one variable
• Evaluating algebraic expressions
• Solving problems using Venn diagrams

## How do we solve algebraic word problems?

• Define a variable.
• Write an equation using the variable.
• Solve the equation.
• If the variable is not the answer to the word problem, use the variable to calculate the answer.

## What's a Venn diagram?

• an integer, like 6 ‍
• a simplified proper fraction, like 3 / 5 ‍
• a simplified improper fraction, like 7 / 4 ‍
• a mixed number, like 1   3 / 4 ‍
• an exact decimal, like 0.75 ‍
• a multiple of pi, like 12   pi ‍   or 2 / 3   pi ‍
• (Choice A)   $4 ‍ A$ 4 ‍
• (Choice B)   $5 ‍ B$ 5 ‍
• (Choice C)   $9 ‍ C$ 9 ‍
• (Choice D)   $14 ‍ D$ 14 ‍
• (Choice E)   $20 ‍ E$ 20 ‍
• (Choice A)   10 ‍   A 10 ‍
• (Choice B)   12 ‍   B 12 ‍
• (Choice C)   24 ‍   C 24 ‍
• (Choice D)   30 ‍   D 30 ‍
• (Choice E)   32 ‍   E 32 ‍
• (Choice A)   4 ‍   A 4 ‍
• (Choice B)   10 ‍   B 10 ‍
• (Choice C)   14 ‍   C 14 ‍
• (Choice D)   18 ‍   D 18 ‍
• (Choice E)   22 ‍   E 22 ‍

## Things to remember

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## How to Factorise a Quadratic Expression

Word problems often confuse students simply because the question does not present itself in a ready-to-solve mathematical equation. You can answer even the most complex word problems, provided you understand the mathematical concepts addressed. While the degree of difficulty may change, the way to solve word problems involves a planned approach that requires identifying the problem, gathering the relevant information, creating the equation, solving and checking your work.

## Identify the Problem

Begin by determining the scenario the problem wants you to solve. This might come as a question or a statement. Either way, the word problem provides you with all the information you need to solve it. Once you identify the problem, you can determine the unit of measurement for the final answer. In the following example, the question asks you to determine the total number of socks between the two sisters. The unit of measurement for this problem is pairs of socks.

"Suzy has eight pairs of red socks and six pairs of blue socks. Suzy's brother Mark owns eight socks. If her little sister owns nine pairs of purple socks and loses two of Suzy's pairs, how many pairs of socks do the sisters have left?"

## Gather Information

Create a table, list, graph or chart that outlines the information you know, and leave blanks for any information you don't yet know. Each word problem may require a different format, but a visual representation of the necessary information makes it easier to work with.

In the example, the question asks how many socks the sisters own together, so you can disregard the information about Mark. Also, the color of the socks doesn't matter. This eliminates much of the information and leaves you with only the total number of socks that the sisters started with and how many the little sister lost.

## Create an Equation

Translate any of the math terms into math symbols. For example, the words and phrases "sum," "more than," "increased" and "in addition to" all mean to add, so write in the "+" symbol over these words. Use a letter for the unknown variable, and create an algebraic equation that represents the problem.

In the example, take the total number of pairs of socks Suzy owns -- eight plus six. Take the total number of pairs that her sister owns -- nine. The total pairs of socks owned by both sisters is 8 + 6 + 9. Subtract the two missing pairs for a final equation of (8 + 6 + 9) - 2 = n, where n is the number of pairs of socks the sisters have left.

## Solve the Problem

Using the equation, solve the problem by plugging in the values and solving for the unknown variable. Double-check your calculations along the way to prevent any mistakes. Multiply, divide and subtract in the correct order using the order of operations. Exponents and roots come first, then multiplication and division, and finally addition and subtraction.

In the example, after adding the numbers together and subtracting, you get an answer of n = 21 pairs of socks.

Check if your answer makes sense with what you know. Using common sense, estimate an answer and see if you come close to what you expected. If the answer seems absurdly large or too small, search through the problem to find where you went wrong.

In the example, you know by adding up all the numbers for the sisters that you have a maximum of 23 socks. Since the problem mentions that the little sister lost two pairs, the final answer must be less than 23. If you get a higher number, you did something wrong. Apply this logic to any word problem, regardless of the difficulty.

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How to teach word problems: strategies for elementary teachers.

If you are looking for tips and ideas for how to teach word problems to your elementary students, then you’ve found the right place! We know that teaching elementary students how to solve word problems is important for math concept and skill application, but it sure can feel like a daunting charge without knowing about the different types, the best practices for teaching them, and common misconceptions to plan in advance for, as well as having the resources you need. All this information will make you feel confident about how to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division word problems! Teaching students how to solve word problems will be so much easier!

This blog post will address the following questions:

• What is a word problem?
• What is a multi-step word problem?
• Why are elementary math word problems important?
• Why are math word problems so hard for elementary students?
• What are the types of word problems?
• How do I teach math word problems in a systematic way?
• What are the best elementary math word problem strategies I can teach my students and what are some tips for how to teach math word problems strategies?
• Do you have any helpful tips for how to teach word problems?
• What are the common mistakes I should look for that my students may make?
• How do I address my students’ common misconceptions surrounding elementary math word problems?

## What is a Word Problem?

A word problem is a math situation that calls for an equation to be solved.  Students must apply their critical thinking skills to determine how to solve the problem.  Word problems give students the opportunity to practice turning situations into numbers.  This is critical as students progress in their education, as well as in their day-to-day life.  By teaching students how to solve word problems in a strategic way, you are setting them up for future success!

## What is a Multi-Step Word Problem?

A multi-step word problem , also known as a two-step word problem or two-step equation word problem, is a math situation that involves more than one equation having to be answered in order to solve the ultimate question.  This requires students to apply their problem solving skills to determine which operation or operations to use to tackle the problem and find the necessary information.  In some cases, the situation may call for mixed operations, and in others the operations will be the same.  Multi-step word problems offer students the opportunity to practice the skill of applying different math concepts with a given problem.

## Why are Word Problems Important in Math?

Word problems are essential in math because they give students the opportunity to apply what they have learned to a real life situation.  In addition, it facilitates students in developing their higher order thinking and critical thinking skills, creativity, positive mindset toward persevering while problem solving, and confidence in their math abilities.  Word problems are an effective tool for teachers to determine whether or not students understand and can apply the concepts and skills they learned to a real life situation.

## Why do Students Struggle with Math Word Problems?

Knowing why students have trouble with word problems will help you better understand how to teach them. The reason why math word problems are difficult for your students is because of a few different reasons. First, students need to be able to fluently read and comprehend the text. Second, they need to be able to identify which operations and steps are needed to find the answer. Finally, they need to be able to accurately calculate the answer. If you have students who struggle with reading or English is their second language (ESL), they may not be able to accurately show what they know and can do because of language and literacy barriers. In these cases, it is appropriate to read the text aloud to them or have it translated into their native language for assignments and assessments.

## Types of Word Problems

Knowing the different types of word problems will help you better understand how to teach math word problems. Read below to learn about the four types of basic one-step addition and subtraction word problems, the subcategories within each of them, and specific examples for all of them. Two-step equation word problems can encompass two of the same type or two separate types (also known as mixed operation word problems).

This type of word problem involves an action that increases the original amount. There are three kinds: Result unknown, change unknown, and initial quantity unknown.

## Result Unknown

Example : There were 7 kids swimming in the pool. 3 more kids jumped in. How many kids are in the pool now? (7 + 3 = ?)

## Change Unknown

Example : There were 8 kids swimming in the pool. More kids jumped in. Now there are 15 kids in the pool. How many kids jumped in? (8 + ? = 15)

## Initial Quantity Unknown

Example : There were kids swimming in the pool. 2 kids jumped in. Now there are 6 kids in the pool. How many kids were swimming in the pool at first? (? + 2 = 6)

## 2. Separate

This type of word problem involves an action that decreases the original amount. There are three kinds: Result unknown, change unknown, and initial quantity unknown.

Example: There were 12 kids swimming in the pool. 6 of the kids got out of the pool. How many kids are in the pool now? (12 – 6 = ?)

Example: There were 9 kids swimming in the pool. Some of the kids got out of the pool. Now there are 4 kids in the pool. How many kids got out of the pool? (9 – ? = 4)

Example: There were kids swimming in the pool. 3 of the kids got out of the pool. Now there are 2 kids in the pool. How many kids were in the pool at first? (? – 3 = 2)

## 3. Part-Part-Whole

This type of word problem does not involve an action like the join and separate types. Instead, it is about defining relationships among a whole and two parts. There are two kinds: result unknown and part unknown.

Example: There are 5 boys and 9 girls swimming in the pool. How many kids are in the pool? (5 + 9 = ?)

## Part Unknown

Example: There are 12 kids swimming in the pool. 8 of them are girls and the rest of them are boys. How many boys are swimming in the pool? (8 + ? = 12)

This type of word problem does not involve an action or relationship like the three other types. Instead, it is about comparing two different unrelated items. There are two kinds: Difference unknown and quantity unknown.

## Difference Unknown

Example: There are 2 kids in the pool. There are 7 kids in the yard. How many more kids are in the yard than in the pool? (2 + ? = 7 or 7 – 2 = ?)

## Quantity Unknown

Example 1: There are 5 kids in the pool. There are 3 fewer kids playing in the yard. How many kids are playing in the yard? (5 – 3 = ?)

Example 2: There are 2 kids in the pool. There are 10 more kids playing in the yard than in the pool. How many kids are playing in the yard? (2 + 10 = ?)

## How to Solve Word Problems in 5 Easy Steps

• Read the problem a second time and make meaning of it by visualizing, drawing pictures, and highlighting important information (numbers, phrases, and questions).
• Plan how you will solve the problem by organizing information in a graphic organizer and writing down equations and formulas that you will need to solve.
• Implement the plan and determine answer.
• Reflect on your answer and determine if it is reasonable.  If not, check your work and start back at step one if needed.  If the answer is reasonable, check your answer and be prepared to explain how you solved it and why you chose the strategies you did.

## 5 Math Word Problem Strategies

Here are 5 strategies for how to teach elementary word problems:

## Draw Pictures

Make meaning of what the word problem is asking by drawing a picture of the math situation.

## Make Models

Use math tools like base-ten blocks to model what is happening in the math situation.

## Highlight Important Information

Underline or highlight important numbers, phrases, and questions.

## Engage in Word Study

Look for key words and phrases like “less” or “in all.” Check out this blog post if you are interested in learning more about math word problem keywords and their limitations.

## 10 Tips for Teaching Students How to Solve Math Word Problems

Here are 10 tips for how to teach math word problems:

• Model a positive attitude toward word problems and math.
• Embody a growth mindset.
• Model! Provide plenty of direct instruction.
• Give lots of opportunities to practice.
• Explicitly teach strategies and post anchor charts so students can access them and remember prior learning.
• Celebrate the strategies and process rather than the correct answer.
• Encourage students to continue persevering when they get stuck.
• Invite students to act as peer tutors.
• Provide opportunities for students to write their own word problems.
• Engage in whole-group discussions when solving word problems as a class.

## Common Misconceptions and Errors When Students Learn How to Solve Math Word Problems

Here are 5 common misconceptions or errors elementary students have or make surrounding math word problems:

## 1. Use the Incorrect Operation

Elementary students often apply the incorrect operations because they pull the numbers from a word problem and add them without considering what the question is asking them or they misunderstand what the problem is asking.  Early in their experience with word problems, this strategy may work most of the time; however, its effectiveness will cease as the math gets more complex.  It is important to instruct students to develop and apply problem-solving strategies.

Although helpful in determining the meaning, elementary students rely solely on key words and phrases in a word problem to determine what operation is being called for. Again, this may be an effective strategy early on in their math career, but it should not be the only strategy students use to determine what their plan of attack is.

## 2. Get Stuck in a Fixed Mindset

Some elementary students give up before starting a word problem because they think all word problems are too hard.  It is essential to instill a positive mindset towards math in students. The best way to do that is through modeling. If you portray an excitement for math, many of your students will share that same feeling.

## 3. Struggle with Reading Skills Component

For first and second graders (as well as struggling readers and ESL students), it is common for students to decode the text incorrectly. Along the same lines, some elementary students think they can’t solve word problems because they do not know how to read yet.  The purpose of word problems is not to assess whether a child can read or not.  Instead, the purpose is to assess their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  As a result, it is appropriate to read word problems to elementary students.

## 4. Calculate Incorrectly

You’ll find instances where students will understand what the question is asking, but they will calculate the addends or the subtrahend from the minuend incorrectly. This type of error is important to note when analyzing student responses because it gives you valuable information for when you plan your instruction.

## 5. Encode Response Incorrectly

Another error that is important to note when analyzing student responses is when you find that they encode their solution in writing incorrectly. This means they understand what the problem is asking, they solve the operations correctly, document their work meticulously, but then write the incorrect answer on the line.

## How to Address Common Misconceptions Surrounding Math Word Problems

You might be wondering, “What can I do in response to some of these misconceptions and errors?” After collecting and analyzing the data, forming groups based on the results, and planning differentiated instruction, you may want to consider trying out these prompts:

• Can you reread the question aloud to me?
• What is the question asking us to do?
• How can we represent the information and question?
• Can we represent the information and question with an equation?
• What is our first step?
• What is our next step?
• Can you think of any strategies we use to help us solve?
• Can you walk me through how you found your answer step by step?
• What do we need to remember when recording our answer?

Now that you have all these tips and ideas for how to teach word problems, we would love for you to try these word problem resources with your students. They offer students opportunities to practice solving word problems after having learned how to solve word problems. You can download word problem worksheets specific to your grade level (along with lots of other math freebies) in our free printable math resources bundle using this link: free printable math activities for elementary teachers .

Check out my monthly word problem resources !

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## Overview of the Problem-Solving Mental Process

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change.

• Identify the Problem
• Define the Problem
• Form a Strategy
• Organize Information
• Allocate Resources
• Monitor Progress
• Evaluate the Results

Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing, and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue.

The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation. In some cases, people are better off learning everything they can about the issue and then using factual knowledge to come up with a solution. In other instances, creativity and insight are the best options.

It is not necessary to follow problem-solving steps sequentially, It is common to skip steps or even go back through steps multiple times until the desired solution is reached.

In order to correctly solve a problem, it is often important to follow a series of steps. Researchers sometimes refer to this as the problem-solving cycle. While this cycle is portrayed sequentially, people rarely follow a rigid series of steps to find a solution.

The following steps include developing strategies and organizing knowledge.

## 1. Identifying the Problem

While it may seem like an obvious step, identifying the problem is not always as simple as it sounds. In some cases, people might mistakenly identify the wrong source of a problem, which will make attempts to solve it inefficient or even useless.

Some strategies that you might use to figure out the source of a problem include :

• Breaking the problem down into smaller pieces
• Looking at the problem from different perspectives
• Conducting research to figure out what relationships exist between different variables

## 2. Defining the Problem

After the problem has been identified, it is important to fully define the problem so that it can be solved. You can define a problem by operationally defining each aspect of the problem and setting goals for what aspects of the problem you will address

At this point, you should focus on figuring out which aspects of the problems are facts and which are opinions. State the problem clearly and identify the scope of the solution.

## 3. Forming a Strategy

After the problem has been identified, it is time to start brainstorming potential solutions. This step usually involves generating as many ideas as possible without judging their quality. Once several possibilities have been generated, they can be evaluated and narrowed down.

The next step is to develop a strategy to solve the problem. The approach used will vary depending upon the situation and the individual's unique preferences. Common problem-solving strategies include heuristics and algorithms.

• Heuristics are mental shortcuts that are often based on solutions that have worked in the past. They can work well if the problem is similar to something you have encountered before and are often the best choice if you need a fast solution.
• Algorithms are step-by-step strategies that are guaranteed to produce a correct result. While this approach is great for accuracy, it can also consume time and resources.

Heuristics are often best used when time is of the essence, while algorithms are a better choice when a decision needs to be as accurate as possible.

## 4. Organizing Information

Before coming up with a solution, you need to first organize the available information. What do you know about the problem? What do you not know? The more information that is available the better prepared you will be to come up with an accurate solution.

When approaching a problem, it is important to make sure that you have all the data you need. Making a decision without adequate information can lead to biased or inaccurate results.

## 5. Allocating Resources

Of course, we don't always have unlimited money, time, and other resources to solve a problem. Before you begin to solve a problem, you need to determine how high priority it is.

If it is an important problem, it is probably worth allocating more resources to solving it. If, however, it is a fairly unimportant problem, then you do not want to spend too much of your available resources on coming up with a solution.

At this stage, it is important to consider all of the factors that might affect the problem at hand. This includes looking at the available resources, deadlines that need to be met, and any possible risks involved in each solution. After careful evaluation, a decision can be made about which solution to pursue.

## 6. Monitoring Progress

After selecting a problem-solving strategy, it is time to put the plan into action and see if it works. This step might involve trying out different solutions to see which one is the most effective.

It is also important to monitor the situation after implementing a solution to ensure that the problem has been solved and that no new problems have arisen as a result of the proposed solution.

Effective problem-solvers tend to monitor their progress as they work towards a solution. If they are not making good progress toward reaching their goal, they will reevaluate their approach or look for new strategies .

## 7. Evaluating the Results

After a solution has been reached, it is important to evaluate the results to determine if it is the best possible solution to the problem. This evaluation might be immediate, such as checking the results of a math problem to ensure the answer is correct, or it can be delayed, such as evaluating the success of a therapy program after several months of treatment.

Once a problem has been solved, it is important to take some time to reflect on the process that was used and evaluate the results. This will help you to improve your problem-solving skills and become more efficient at solving future problems.

## A Word From Verywell​

It is important to remember that there are many different problem-solving processes with different steps, and this is just one example. Problem-solving in real-world situations requires a great deal of resourcefulness, flexibility, resilience, and continuous interaction with the environment.

## Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can stop dwelling in a negative mindset.

You can become a better problem solving by:

• Practicing brainstorming and coming up with multiple potential solutions to problems
• Being open-minded and considering all possible options before making a decision
• Breaking down problems into smaller, more manageable pieces
• Asking for help when needed
• Researching different problem-solving techniques and trying out new ones
• Learning from mistakes and using them as opportunities to grow

It's important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner about what's going on. Try to see things from their perspective as well as your own. Work together to find a resolution that works for both of you. Be willing to compromise and accept that there may not be a perfect solution.

Take breaks if things are getting too heated, and come back to the problem when you feel calm and collected. Don't try to fix every problem on your own—consider asking a therapist or counselor for help and insight.

If you've tried everything and there doesn't seem to be a way to fix the problem, you may have to learn to accept it. This can be difficult, but try to focus on the positive aspects of your life and remember that every situation is temporary. Don't dwell on what's going wrong—instead, think about what's going right. Find support by talking to friends or family. Seek professional help if you're having trouble coping.

Davidson JE, Sternberg RJ, editors.  The Psychology of Problem Solving .  Cambridge University Press; 2003. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511615771

Sarathy V. Real world problem-solving .  Front Hum Neurosci . 2018;12:261. Published 2018 Jun 26. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00261

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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## Module 10: Linear Equations

Apply a problem-solving strategy to word problems, learning outcomes.

• Approach word problems with a positive attitude
• Use a problem solving strategy for word problems
• Translate more complex word problems into algebraic expressions and equations

## Approach Word Problems with a Positive Attitude

The world is full of word problems. How much money do I need to fill the car with gas? How much should I tip the server at a restaurant? How many socks should I pack for vacation? How big a turkey do I need to buy for Thanksgiving dinner, and what time do I need to put it in the oven? If my sister and I buy our mother a present, how much will each of us pay?

Now that we can solve equations, we are ready to apply our new skills to word problems. Do you know anyone who has had negative experiences in the past with word problems? Have you ever had thoughts like the student in the cartoon below?

Negative thoughts about word problems can be barriers to success.

When we feel we have no control, and continue repeating negative thoughts, we set up barriers to success. We need to calm our fears and change our negative feelings.

Start with a fresh slate and begin to think positive thoughts, like the student in the cartoon below. Read the positive thoughts and say them out loud.

When it comes to word problems, a positive attitude is a big step toward success.

If we take control and believe we can be successful, we will be able to master word problems.

Think of something that you can do now but couldn’t do three years ago. Whether it’s driving a car, snowboarding, cooking a gourmet meal, or speaking a new language, you have been able to learn and master a new skill. Word problems are no different. Even if you have struggled with word problems in the past, you have acquired many new math skills that will help you succeed now!

## Use a Problem-Solving Strategy for Word Problems

In earlier chapters, you translated word phrases into algebraic expressions, using some basic mathematical vocabulary and symbols. Since then, you’ve increased your math vocabulary as you learned about more algebraic procedures, and you’ve had more practice translating from words into algebra.

You have also translated word sentences into algebraic equations and solved some word problems. The word problems applied math to everyday situations. You had to restate the situation in one sentence, assign a variable, and then write an equation to solve. This method works as long as the situation is familiar to you and the math is not too complicated.

Now we’ll develop a strategy you can use to solve any word problem. This strategy will help you become successful with word problems. We’ll demonstrate the strategy as we solve the following problem.

Pete bought a shirt on sale for $$18$, which is one-half the original price. What was the original price of the shirt? Solution: Step 1. Read the problem. Make sure you understand all the words and ideas. You may need to read the problem two or more times. If there are words you don’t understand, look them up in a dictionary or on the Internet. • In this problem, do you understand what is being discussed? Do you understand every word? Step 2. Identify what you are looking for. It’s hard to find something if you are not sure what it is! Read the problem again and look for words that tell you what you are looking for! • In this problem, the words “what was the original price of the shirt” tell you what you are looking for: the original price of the shirt. Step 3. Name what you are looking for. Choose a variable to represent that quantity. You can use any letter for the variable, but it may help to choose one that helps you remember what it represents. • Let $p=$ the original price of the shirt Step 4. Translate into an equation. It may help to first restate the problem in one sentence, with all the important information. Then translate the sentence into an equation. Step 6. Check the answer in the problem and make sure it makes sense. • We found that $p=36$, which means the original price was $\text{\36}$. Does $\text{\36}$ make sense in the problem? Yes, because $18$ is one-half of $36$, and the shirt was on sale at half the original price. Step 7. Answer the question with a complete sentence. • The problem asked “What was the original price of the shirt?” The answer to the question is: “The original price of the shirt was $\text{\36}$.” If this were a homework exercise, our work might look like this: https://ohm.lumenlearning.com/multiembedq.php?id=142694&amp;amp;theme=oea&amp;amp;iframe_resize_id=mom1 We list the steps we took to solve the previous example. ## Problem-Solving Strategy • Read the word problem. Make sure you understand all the words and ideas. You may need to read the problem two or more times. If there are words you don’t understand, look them up in a dictionary or on the internet. • Identify what you are looking for. Determine the constants and variables in the problem. A constant is a number in the problem that is not going to change. A variable is a number that you don’t yet know its value. • Name what you are looking for. Choose a letter to represent that quantity. • Translate words into algebraic expressions and equations. Write an equation to represent the problem. It may be helpful to first restate the problem in one sentence before translating. • Solve the equation using good algebra techniques. • Check the answer in the problem. Make sure it makes sense. • Answer the question with a complete sentence. ## Translate word problems into expressions One of the first steps to solving word problems is converting an English sentence into a mathematical sentence. In the table below, words or phrases commonly associated with mathematical operators are categorized. Word problems often contain these or similar words, so it’s good to see what mathematical operators are associated with them. Some examples follow: • “$x\text{ is }5$” becomes $x=5$ • “Three more than a number” becomes $x+3$ • “Four less than a number” becomes $x-4$ • “Double the cost” becomes $2\cdot\text{ cost }$ • “Groceries and gas together for the week cost$250” means $\text{ groceries }+\text{ gas }=250$
• “The difference of $9$ and a number” becomes $9-x$. Notice how $9$ is first in the sentence and the expression.

Let’s practice translating a few more English phrases into algebraic expressions.

Translate the table into algebraic expressions:

In this example video, we show how to translate more words into mathematical expressions.

For another review of how to translate algebraic statements into words, watch the following video.

The power of algebra is how it can help you model real situations in order to answer questions about them.  Let’s use this approach with another example.

Yash brought apples and bananas to a picnic. The number of apples was three more than twice the number of bananas. Yash brought $11$ apples to the picnic. How many bananas did he bring?

https://ohm.lumenlearning.com/multiembedq.php?id=142722&theme=oea&iframe_resize_id=mom2

Twenty-eight less than five times a certain number is $232$. What is the number?

Following the steps provided:

• Read and understand: we are looking for a number.
• Constants and variables:  $28$ and $232$ are constants, “a certain number” is our variable, because we don’t know its value, and we are asked to find it. We will call it $x$.
• Translate:  five times a certain number translates to $5x$ Twenty-eight less than five times a certain number translates to $5x-28$, because subtraction is built backward. “is 232” translates to “$=232″$ since “is” is associated with equals.
• Write an equation:  $5x-28=232$

$\begin{array}{r}5x-28=232\\5x=260\\x=52\,\,\,\end{array}$

$\begin{array}{r}5\left(52\right)-28=232\\5\left(52\right)=260\\260=260\end{array}$

In the video that follows, we show another example of how to translate a sentence into a mathematical expression using a problem solving method.

In the next example, we will apply our Problem-Solving Strategy to applications of percent.

Nga’s car insurance premium increased by $\text{\60}$, which was $\text{8%}$ of the original cost. What was the original cost of the premium?

https://ohm.lumenlearning.com/multiembedq.php?id=142735&theme=oea&iframe_resize_id=mom3

https://ohm.lumenlearning.com/multiembedq.php?id=142761&theme=oea&iframe_resize_id=mom4

## Contribute!

• Write Algebraic Expressions from Statements: Form ax+b and a(x+b). Authored by : James Sousa (Mathispower4u.com) for Lumen Learning. Located at : https://youtu.be/Hub7ku7UHT4 . License : CC BY: Attribution
• Question ID 142694, 142722, 142735, 142761. Authored by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution . License Terms : IMathAS Community License, CC-BY + GPL

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## Algebra Topics  - Introduction to Word Problems

Algebra topics  -, introduction to word problems, algebra topics introduction to word problems.

## Algebra Topics: Introduction to Word Problems

Lesson 9: introduction to word problems.

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## What are word problems?

A word problem is a math problem written out as a short story or scenario. Basically, it describes a realistic problem and asks you to imagine how you would solve it using math. If you've ever taken a math class, you've probably solved a word problem. For instance, does this sound familiar?

Johnny has 12 apples. If he gives four to Susie, how many will he have left?

You could solve this problem by looking at the numbers and figuring out what the problem is asking you to do. In this case, you're supposed to find out how many apples Johnny has left at the end of the problem. By reading the problem, you know Johnny starts out with 12 apples. By the end, he has 4 less because he gave them away. You could write this as:

12 - 4 = 8 , so you know Johnny has 8 apples left.

## Word problems in algebra

If you were able to solve this problem, you should also be able to solve algebra word problems. Yes, they involve more complicated math, but they use the same basic problem-solving skills as simpler word problems.

You can tackle any word problem by following these five steps:

• Read through the problem carefully, and figure out what it's about.
• Represent unknown numbers with variables.
• Translate the rest of the problem into a mathematical expression.
• Solve the problem.

We'll work through an algebra word problem using these steps. Here's a typical problem:

The rate to rent a small moving van is $30 per day, plus$0.50 per mile. Jada rented a van to drive to her new home. It took two days, and the van cost $360. How many miles did she drive? It might seem complicated at first glance, but we already have all of the information we need to solve it. Let's go through it step by step. ## Step 1: Read through the problem carefully. With any problem, start by reading through the problem. As you're reading, consider: • What question is the problem asking? • What information do you already have? Let's take a look at our problem again. What question is the problem asking? In other words, what are you trying to find out? The rate to rent a small moving van is$30 per day, plus $0.50 per mile. Jada rented a van to drive to her new home. It took 2 days, and the van cost$360. How many miles did she drive?

There's only one question here. We're trying to find out how many miles Jada drove . Now we need to locate any information that will help us answer this question.

There are a few important things we know that will help us figure out the total mileage Jada drove:

• The van cost $30 per day. • In addition to paying a daily charge, Jada paid$0.50 per mile.
• The total cost was $360 . ## Step 2: Represent unknown numbers with variables. In algebra, you represent unknown numbers with letters called variables . (To learn more about variables, see our lesson on reading algebraic expressions .) You can use a variable in the place of any amount you don't know. Looking at our problem, do you see a quantity we should represent with a variable? It's often the number we're trying to find out. Since we're trying to find the total number of miles Jada drove, we'll represent that amount with a variable—at least until we know it. We'll use the variable m for miles . Of course, we could use any variable, but m should be easy to remember. ## Step 3: Translate the rest of the problem. Let's take another look at the problem, with the facts we'll use to solve it highlighted. The rate to rent a small moving van is$30 per day , plus $0.50 per mile . Jada rented a van to drive to her new home. It took 2 days , and the van cost$360 . How many miles did she drive?

We know the total cost of the van, and we know that it includes a fee for the number of days, plus another fee for the number of miles. It's $30 per day, and$0.50 per mile. A simpler way to say this would be:

$30 per day plus$0.50 per mile is $360. If you look at this sentence and the original problem, you can see that they basically say the same thing: It cost Jada$30 per day and $0.50 per mile, and her total cost was$360 . The shorter version will be easier to translate into a mathematical expression.

Let's start by translating $30 per day . To calculate the cost of something that costs a certain amount per day, you'd multiply the per-day cost by the number of days—in other words, 30 per day could be written as 30 ⋅ days, or 30 times the number of days . (Not sure why you'd translate it this way? Check out our lesson on writing algebraic expressions .)$30 per day and $.50 per mile is$360

$30 ⋅ day +$.50 ⋅ mile = $360 As you can see, there were a few other words we could translate into operators, so and$.50 became + $.50 ,$.50 per mile became $.50 ⋅ mile , and is became = . Next, we'll add in the numbers and variables we already know. We already know the number of days Jada drove, 2 , so we can replace that. We've also already said we'll use m to represent the number of miles, so we can replace that too. We should also take the dollar signs off of the money amounts to make them consistent with the other numbers. 30 ⋅ 2 + .5 ⋅ m = 360 Now we have our expression. All that's left to do is solve it. ## Step 4: Solve the problem. This problem will take a few steps to solve. (If you're not sure how to do the math in this section, you might want to review our lesson on simplifying expressions .) First, let's simplify the expression as much as possible. We can multiply 30 and 2, so let's go ahead and do that. We can also write .5 ⋅ m as 0.5 m . 60 + .5m = 360 Next, we need to do what we can to get the m alone on the left side of the equals sign. Once we do that, we'll know what m is equal to—in other words, it will let us know the number of miles in our word problem. We can start by getting rid of the 60 on the left side by subtracting it from both sides . The only thing left to get rid of is .5 . Since it's being multiplied with m , we'll do the reverse and divide both sides of the equation with it. .5 m / .5 is m and 300 / 0.50 is 600 , so m = 600 . In other words, the answer to our problem is 600 —we now know Jada drove 600 miles. ## Step 5: Check the problem. To make sure we solved the problem correctly, we should check our work. To do this, we can use the answer we just got— 600 —and calculate backward to find another of the quantities in our problem. In other words, if our answer for Jada's distance is correct, we should be able to use it to work backward and find another value, like the total cost. Let's take another look at the problem. According to the problem, the van costs$30 per day and $0.50 per mile. If Jada really did drive 600 miles in 2 days, she could calculate the cost like this:$30 per day and $0.50 per mile 30 ⋅ day + .5 ⋅ mile 30 ⋅ 2 + .5 ⋅ 600 According to our math, the van would cost$360, which is exactly what the problem says. This means our solution was correct. We're done!

While some word problems will be more complicated than others, you can use these basic steps to approach any word problem. On the next page, you can try it for yourself.

Let's practice with a couple more problems. You can solve these problems the same way we solved the first one—just follow the problem-solving steps we covered earlier. For your reference, these steps are:

If you get stuck, you might want to review the problem on page 1. You can also take a look at our lesson on writing algebraic expressions for some tips on translating written words into math.

Try completing this problem on your own. When you're done, move on to the next page to check your answer and see an explanation of the steps.

A single ticket to the fair costs $8. A family pass costs$25 more than half of that. How much does a family pass cost?

Here's another problem to do on your own. As with the last problem, you can find the answer and explanation to this one on the next page.

Flor and Mo both donated money to the same charity. Flor gave three times as much as Mo. Between the two of them, they donated $280. How much money did Mo give? ## Problem 1 Answer Here's Problem 1: A single ticket to the fair costs$8. A family pass costs $25 more than half that. How much does a family pass cost? Answer:$29

Let's solve this problem step by step. We'll solve it the same way we solved the problem on page 1.

## Step 1: Read through the problem carefully

The first in solving any word problem is to find out what question the problem is asking you to solve and identify the information that will help you solve it . Let's look at the problem again. The question is right there in plain sight:

So is the information we'll need to answer the question:

• A single ticket costs $8 . • The family pass costs$25 more than half the price of the single ticket.

## Step 2: Represent the unknown numbers with variables

The unknown number in this problem is the cost of the family pass . We'll represent it with the variable f .

## Step 3: Translate the rest of the problem

Let's look at the problem again. This time, the important facts are highlighted.

A single ticket to the fair costs $8 . A family pass costs$25 more than half that . How much does a family pass cost?

In other words, we could say that the cost of a family pass equals half of $8, plus$25 . To turn this into a problem we can solve, we'll have to translate it into math. Here's how:

• First, replace the cost of a family pass with our variable f .

f equals half of $8 plus$25

• Next, take out the dollar signs and replace words like plus and equals with operators.

f = half of 8 + 25

• Finally, translate the rest of the problem. Half of can be written as 1/2 times , or 1/2 ⋅ :

f = 1/2 ⋅ 8 + 25

## Step 4: Solve the problem

Now all we have to do is solve our problem. Like with any problem, we can solve this one by following the order of operations.

• f is already alone on the left side of the equation, so all we have to do is calculate the right side.
• First, multiply 1/2 by 8 . 1/2 ⋅ 8 is 4 .
• Next, add 4 and 25. 4 + 25 equals 29 .

That's it! f is equal to 29. In other words, the cost of a family pass is $29 . ## Step 5: Check your work Finally, let's check our work by working backward from our answer. In this case, we should be able to correctly calculate the cost of a single ticket by using the cost we calculated for the family pass. Let's look at the original problem again. We calculated that a family pass costs$29. Our problem says the pass costs $25 more than half the cost of a single ticket. In other words, half the cost of a single ticket will be$25 less than $29. • We could translate this into this equation, with s standing for the cost of a single ticket. 1/2s = 29 - 25 • Let's work on the right side first. 29 - 25 is 4 . • To find the value of s , we have to get it alone on the left side of the equation. This means getting rid of 1/2 . To do this, we'll multiply each side by the inverse of 1/2: 2 . According to our math, s = 8 . In other words, if the family pass costs$29, the single ticket will cost $8. Looking at our original problem, that's correct! So now we're sure about the answer to our problem: The cost of a family pass is$29 .

Here's Problem 2:

Answer: $70 Let's go through this problem one step at a time. Start by asking what question the problem is asking you to solve and identifying the information that will help you solve it . What's the question here? To solve the problem, you'll have to find out how much money Mo gave to charity. All the important information you need is in the problem: • The amount Flor donated is three times as much the amount Mo donated • Flor and Mo's donations add up to$280 total

The unknown number we're trying to identify in this problem is Mo's donation . We'll represent it with the variable m .

Here's the problem again. This time, the important facts are highlighted.

Flor and Mo both donated money to the same charity. Flor gave three times as much as Mo . Between the two of them, they donated $280 . How much money did Mo give? The important facts of the problem could also be expressed this way: Mo's donation plus Flor's donation equals$280

Because we know that Flor's donation is three times as much as Mo's donation, we could go even further and say:

Mo's donation plus three times Mo's donation equals $280 We can translate this into a math problem in only a few steps. Here's how: • Because we've already said we'll represent the amount of Mo's donation with the variable m , let's start by replacing Mo's donation with m . m plus three times m equals$280

• Next, we can put in mathematical operators in place of certain words. We'll also take out the dollar sign.

m + three times m = 280

• Finally, let's write three times mathematically. Three times m can also be written as 3 ⋅ m , or just 3 m .

m + 3m = 280

It will only take a few steps to solve this problem.

• To get the correct answer, we'll have to get m alone on one side of the equation.
• To start, let's add m and 3 m . That's 4 m .
• We can get rid of the 4 next to the m by dividing both sides by 4. 4 m / 4 is m , and 280 / 4 is 70 .

We've got our answer: m = 70 . In other words, Mo donated $70 . The answer to our problem is$70 , but we should check just to be sure. Let's look at our problem again.

If our answer is correct, $70 and three times$70 should add up to $280 . • We can write our new equation like this: 70 + 3 ⋅ 70 = 280 • The order of operations calls for us to multiply first. 3 ⋅ 70 is 210. 70 + 210 = 280 • The last step is to add 70 and 210. 70 plus 210 equals 280 . 280 is the combined cost of the tickets in our original problem. Our answer is correct : Mo gave$70 to charity.

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## 1. Solve word problems regularly

This might be the most important tip of all. Word problems should be part of everyday math practice, especially for older kids. Whenever possible, use word problems every time you teach a new math skill. Even better: give students a daily word problem to solve so they’ll get comfortable with the process.

## 2. Teach problem-solving routines

There are a LOT of strategies out there for teaching kids how to solve word problems (keep reading to see some terrific examples). The important thing to remember is that what works for one student may not work for another. So introduce a basic routine like Plan-Solve-Check that every kid can use every time. You can expand on the Plan and Solve steps in a variety of ways, but this basic 3-step process ensures kids slow down and take their time.

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## 3. Visualize or model the problem

Encourage students to think of word problems as an actual story or scenario. Try acting the problem out if possible, and draw pictures, diagrams, or models. Learn more about this method and get free printable templates at the link.

## 4. Make sure they identify the actual question

Educator Robert Kaplinsky asked 32 eighth grade students to answer this nonsensical word problem. Only 25% of them realized they didn’t have the right information to answer the actual question; the other 75% gave a variety of numerical answers that involved adding, subtracting, or dividing the two numbers. That tells us kids really need to be trained to identify the actual question being asked before they proceed.

## 5. Remove the numbers

It seems counterintuitive … math without numbers? But this word problem strategy really forces kids to slow down and examine the problem itself, without focusing on numbers at first. If the numbers were removed from the sheep/shepherd problem above, students would have no choice but to slow down and read more carefully, rather than plowing ahead without thinking.

## 6. Try the CUBES method

This is a tried-and-true method for teaching word problems, and it’s really effective for kids who are prone to working too fast and missing details. By taking the time to circle, box, and underline important information, students are more likely to find the correct answer to the question actually being asked.

## 7. Show word problems the LOVE

Here’s another fun acronym for tackling word problems: LOVE. Using this method, kids Label numbers and other key info, then explain Our thinking by writing the equation as a sentence. They use Visuals or models to help plan and list any and all Equations they’ll use.

## 8. Consider teaching word problem key words

This is one of those methods that some teachers love and others hate. Those who like it feel it offers kids a simple tool for making sense of words and how they relate to math. Others feel it’s outdated, and prefer to teach word problems using context and situations instead (see below). You might just consider this one more trick to keep in your toolbox for students who need it.

## 9. Determine the operation for the situation

Instead of (or in addition to) key words, have kids really analyze the situation presented to determine the right operation(s) to use. Some key words, like “total,” can be pretty vague. It’s worth taking the time to dig deeper into what the problem is really asking. Get a free printable chart and learn how to use this method at the link.

## 10. Differentiate word problems to build skills

Sometimes students get so distracted by numbers that look big or scary that they give up right off the bat. For those cases, try working your way up to the skill at hand. For instance, instead of jumping right to subtracting 4 digit numbers, make the numbers smaller to start. Each successive problem can be a little more difficult, but kids will see they can use the same method regardless of the numbers themselves.

## 11. Ensure they can justify their answers

One of the quickest ways to find mistakes is to look closely at your answer and ensure it makes sense. If students can explain how they came to their conclusion, they’re much more likely to get the answer right. That’s why teachers have been asking students to “show their work” for decades now.

## 12. Write the answer in a sentence

When you think about it, this one makes so much sense. Word problems are presented in complete sentences, so the answers should be too. This helps students make certain they’re actually answering the question being asked… part of justifying their answer.

A smart way to help kids conquer word problems is to, well… give them better problems to conquer. A rich math word problem is accessible and feels real to students, like something that matters. It should allow for different ways to solve it and be open for discussion. A series of problems should be varied, using different operations and situations when possible, and even include multiple steps. Visit both of the links below for excellent tips on adding rigor to your math word problems.

## 14. Use a problem-solving rounds activity.

Put all those word problem strategies and skills together with this whole-class activity. Start by reading the problem as a group and sharing important information. Then, have students work with a partner to plan how they’ll solve it. In round three, kids use those plans to solve the problem individually. Finally, they share their answer and methods with their partner and the class. Be sure to recognize and respect all problem-solving strategies that lead to the correct answer.

Like these word problem tips and tricks? Learn more about Why It’s Important to Honor All Math Strategies .

Plus, 60+ Awesome Websites For Teaching and Learning Math .

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1. 5 Easy Steps to Solving Word Problems

1. Write (or draw) what you know. It is important to convince students that they do not have to immediately know what math operation is required to solve the problem. They first need only understand the scenario itself.

2. The 4 Steps to Solving Word Problems

The 4 Steps to Solving Word Problems By: Mark Zegarelli and Updated: 03-26-2016 From The Book: Basic Math & Pre-Algebra For Dummies Basic Math & Pre-Algebra For Dummies Explore Book Buy On Amazon

3. 4 Simple Steps to Solve a Word Problem

Number Bonds. Arrays. Number Lines. Most students want to jump to writing an equation or number sentence, but in my class, it can't be done until the model is drawn. Once the model is drawn students can better understand what the unknown is and write a number sentence that will help them to accurately solve the word problem. I always remind ...

4. 5 Easy Steps to Solve Any Word Problem in Math

4 steps in solving word problems in math: Understand the Problem Plan the solution Solve the Problem Check the solution This 4 step method is the basis of the method I'm going to tell you all about. The problem isn't with the method itself, it is the fact that most students see word problems and just start panicking!

5. Strategies for Solving Word Problems

1. Read the Entire Word Problem Before students look for keywords and try to figure out what to do, they need to slow down a bit and read the whole word problem once (and even better, twice). This helps kids get the bigger picture to be able to understand it a little better too. 2. Think About the Word Problem

6. Word Problems Calculator

Full pad Examples Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) How do you solve word problems? To solve word problems start by reading the problem carefully and understanding what it's asking. Try underlining or highlighting key information, such as numbers and key words that indicate what operation is needed to perform.

7. Solving Word Problems: Steps & Examples

Step 1: Visualize the Problem The first step is to visualize the problem. See if you can picture what is going on. Draw pictures if that will help you. Pinpoint or highlight the important...

8. Apply a Problem-Solving Strategy to Basic Word Problems

Even if you know the answer right away, using algebra will better prepare you to solve problems that do not have obvious answers. Write the equation. 18= 1 2p 18 = 1 2 p. Multiply both sides by 2. 2⋅18=2⋅ 1 2p 2 ⋅ 18 = 2 ⋅ 1 2 p. Simplify. 36=p 36 = p. Step 6.

9. What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process & Techniques

1. Define the problem Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. Helpful problem-solving techniques include using flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze root causes. The sections below help explain key problem-solving steps.

10. How to Solve Word Problems in 3 Simple Steps

1. Read: Read the problem and decide what the question is asking. Read the problem 2 times or more. Underline or circle key words, phrases, and numbers. Draw a line through irrelevant information. 2. Plan: Think about what the story is asking you to do. What information are you given, and what do you need to find out? Draw a picture.

11. Algebraic word problems

Algebraic word problems are questions that require translating sentences to equations, then solving those equations. The equations we need to write will only involve. basic arithmetic operations. and a single variable. Usually, the variable represents an unknown quantity in a real-life scenario.

12. 5 Steps to Word Problem Solving

Gather Information Create a table, list, graph or chart that outlines the information you know, and leave blanks for any information you don't yet know. Each word problem may require a different format, but a visual representation of the necessary information makes it easier to work with.

13. How to Teach Word Problems: Strategies for Elementary Teachers

Read below to learn about the four types of basic one-step addition and subtraction word problems, the subcategories within each of them, and specific examples for all of them. ... How to Solve Word Problems in 5 Easy Steps. Here are 5 steps that will help you teach word problems to your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade students: Read the problem.

14. Word Problems Calculator

Free Inclusive Number Word Problems Calculator - Given an integer A and an integer B, this calculates the following inclusive word problem questions: 1) The Average of all numbers inclusive from A to B. 2) The Count of all numbers inclusive from A to B. 3) The Sum of all numbers inclusive from A to B.

15. PDF Five-Step Strategy to Solving Word Problems

Wewill now solve a word problem using the Five-Step Strategy. A freight train leaves Chicago at 4:30 pm traveling at a speed of 60 mph. Two hours later a passenger train leaves the same station traveling at 90 mph. How far will the first train get before the passenger train catches up to it?

16. Simple Steps for Solving Word Problems

Technical Math For Dummies Explore Book Buy On Amazon Word problems aren't just on school tests. You solve word problems every day in your work or even while you're just out and about. Don't worry — these steps make solving word problems easier than you think. Just follow these easy steps to take away the mystery: Read the problem.

17. The Problem-Solving Process

Allocate Resources. Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing, and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue. The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation. In some cases, people are better off ...

18. Apply a Problem-Solving Strategy to Word Problems

Read the positive thoughts and say them out loud. When it comes to word problems, a positive attitude is a big step toward success. If we take control and believe we can be successful, we will be able to master word problems. Think of something that you can do now but couldn't do three years ago.

19. THE PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS Flashcards

Problem solving, and the techniques used to gain clarity, are most effective if the solution remains in place and is updated to respond to future changes. Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Problem solving, The problem solving process, Step 1: Define the Problem and more.

20. Apply a Problem-Solving Strategy to Basic Word Problems

p =. p= p =. the original price of the shirt. Step 4. Translate into an equation. It may help to first restate the problem in one sentence, with all the important information. Then translate the sentence into an equation. Step 5. Solve the equation using good algebra techniques.

21. Algebra Topics: Introduction to Word Problems

Step 4: Solve the problem. It will only take a few steps to solve this problem. To get the correct answer, we'll have to get m alone on one side of the equation. m + 3m = 280. To start, let's add m and 3m. That's 4m. 4m = 280. We can get rid of the 4 next to the m by dividing both sides by 4. 4m / 4 is m, and 280 / 4 is 70. m = 70. We've got ...