The 4 Steps to Solving Word Problems

The very mention of word problems — or story problems, as they're sometimes called — is enough to send a cold shiver of terror into the bones of the average math student. Generally, solving a word problem involves four easy steps:

  1. Read through the problem and set up a word equation — that is, an equation that contains words as well as numbers.

  2. Plug in numbers in place of words wherever possible to set up a regular math equation.

  3. Use math to solve the equation.

  4. Answer the question the problem asks.

Break down a word problem sentence by sentence, jot down the information you need to solve the problem, and then substitute numbers for words to set up an equation.

When you know how to turn a word problem into an equation, the hard part is done. Then you can use the rest of what you know to figure out how to do Step 3 — solve the equation. From there, Step 4 is usually pretty easy.

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