Frank Howard Clark said, “I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.” What Mr. Clark would like to convey with this is that the way to solving easy math word problems is by having fun with the problems. And in having fun with them, there are two simple steps in solving math word problems:
Step 1: Translate the words into a numeric expression or equation
Math word problems can be converted into a series of expressions or equations containing a combination of mathematical expressions. To be able to translate these word problems you have to follow these steps:
1. Read the problem very well and in its entirety. Get the full perspective of the problem. Reading it in full will give you an idea of what the real problem is.
2. List all the factors provided. Make a list of all the given variables including units of measurement if available. Having all these information available will show you if you need to do any conversion like from miles to kilometers, pounds to kilograms, etc.
3. Define what needs to be answered. Be sure to know what you are looking for or what the problem needs to answer.
4. Organize your solution. Provide the procedures or steps you will take to find the answer to the problem. Showing the step-by-step procedure will help you track all the variables and expressions you are using.
5. Be aware of the key words. In translating and solving the problem, you should be aware of the basic key words in translating words into algebraic equations, such as:
Addition: added to, increased by, more than, sum of, total of, combined with
Subtraction: decreased by, subtracted from, less than, difference of, reduced by, fewer than
Multiplication: multiplied by, times, product of
Division: divided by, quotient of, remainder of, percentage, ratio of, per
Certain key words suggest specific mathematical operations that should be done to the given factors or variables.
6. Plot the expression or equation. Plot the expressions or equation properly following the order of operations.
Step 2: Solve the mathematical equation
To solve a mathematical equation, follow the order of operations by level:
- compute first all those inside parentheses or the innermost expressions
- compute those with exponents, raised to a power or root of
- multiply or divide from left to right
- add or subtract from left to right
It would be easy to solve the equation by writing down the answers for each level before going to the next level. Here is an example:
X = ((2 * 3) + (32) + (20/4) – (2 * 6)) * 2 + (3 * 8) – (4 * 5)
X = ((6) + (9) + (5) – (12)) * 2 + (24) – (20)
X = (6 + 9 + 5 – 12) * 2 + (24 – 20)
X = (8) * 2 + (4)
X = 8 * 2 + 4
X = 16 + 4
X = 20
From the sample equation above you will the order operations that were followed in solving the equation.
With these two simple steps to follow there is no need for you to just stop and stare and pray for divine intervention to be able to solve a math word problem! Now you can safely say that Math is easy and that it isn’t hard to solve math word problems.