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Solving Word Problems

For many students, word problems can be the most intimating thing in mathematics.  They could handle anything in math except word problem.  Word problems don't have a restricted number of choices.  You could encounter a word problem 

that you have never seen or heard of before.  The vocabulary used is so confusing.  You get a word problem about mowing the

lawn, which you may have never done before.  

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Effective tips to solve word problems:

(1) Slow down!  Do not rush into starting the problem.  It's ok to read it a few times to make sense of the problem.  One issue with elementary and high school level math is that many of the questions can be solved easily without much thinking.  So students learn that math is supposed to come to them easily.  There is no time to think. You have to start writing immediately.   Many of the ideas in mathematics course days or months or even years to discover.  

(2) Focus on proper equation.  The equation is the most important part of the problem.  If your teacher doesn't give you one, you need to take you time to create an equation that accurately depicts what is happening.   It's difficult to give you any marks if your equation is wrong.  Create an equation that makes sense.

(3) Obey the laws of algebra.   The laws of algebra do not change just because we are working with variables rather than numbers.  For instance, 3 + 3 = 6 and not 9.  So x + x = 2x  and not x squared!  Obeying the laws of algebra can help you get a significant amount of marks.   

(4) Proper Practice.  Textbook or worksheets are often not enough for the average student.  Ask your teacher for more practice questions.  Do those that are not assigned.  Remember your teacher doesn't really know how much practice each individual student needs.  To be well-prepared, do more than assigned.  That guarantees you will be better prepared than the majority of your classmates.  Proper practice involves careful application of tips (1) to (3).   Review solutions to questions you got wrong.  

Why were they wrong?  Can you redo all of the steps of the problems correctly?  

(5) Don't stress.  Stress doesn't help anyone think smarter, especially not when you are writing a test with a limited time.  Stay positive.  If you follow tips (1) to (4), there is no reason to be stressed out :).   

Good luck!


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