SAT Math Word Problems: Setting Up Equations

By Ron Woldoff

The SAT Math exam contains some problems, including word problems, that ask you to set up an equation based on information that you are given. They may look intimidating, but if you approach them logically, you can solve them fairly easily.

The following practice questions ask you to set up an equation to find the area of a trapezoid, and to calculate the number of bottles of soda sold based on total sales of water and soda.

Practice questions

  1. The area of a trapezoid, T, can be shown in terms of its bases, b1 and b2, and its height, h. Which equation represents h in terms of T, b1, and b2?
  2. A soda machine charges $0.75 for a bottle of water and $1.25 for a bottle of soda. If in one day it sells 40 items and collects $40, how many bottles of soda did it sell?
    A. 15
    B. 20
    C. 25
    D. 30

Answers and explanations

  1. The correct answer is Choice (C).
    Set up the equation and solve for h:
  2. The correct answer is Choice (B).
    If the machine sells s bottles of soda and w bottles of water, you can set up two equations:
    Multiply the second equation by 0.75 and subtract it from the first equation: