Solving word problems can be the most challenging part of any math quiz or test, and many students struggle with these types of questions. It’s important to approach these problems with a strategy that will put you in the best position to succeed, so here are 7 study tips for students to help them with solving these types of questions:
- Read the question carefully – an important first step in solving word problems is to take the time to read the question carefully. In particular, take time to identify the parts of the question that are important in solving the question, while ignoring the parts of the question that are not providing important information.
- Draw a picture – often times, word problems provide a ton of information that is hard to translate in your head. Creating a visual can be a helpful tool in trying to solve the question effectively.
- What am I trying to find (call it “X”) – 95% of math word problems will require developing an equation in order to solve for what you are trying to find. To facilitate this process, it often helps to identify what you are trying to find up front, and call it “X”, as this is the unknown that you will be trying to solve for.
- Keep in mind what section of the course you are in – this is less helpful for a final exam, but for any quizzes or tests, it is helpful to keep in mind what unit you are in. In each unit of any math course, there are particular techniques and skills that the unit is getting you to apply. Ask yourself “how can I use the techniques from this unit to solve this question”, and it may help you decide how best to approach the problem.
- Create the equation – a necessary step in every word problem is to take the information provided and translate it into an equation. This is always the toughest part of solving a word problem, but creating a simple equation will go a long way in solving the question efficiently and effectively.
- Check that your answer makes sense – think about what the questions is asking for, and ask yourself if the answer you got makes sense. This can help you with checking your work, or in simply selecting the correct solution. For example, if you are solving for a length of fencing around a pen, and in solving for “X”, you get the X can equal either 7 or -2, then ask yourself, “does it make sense for a fence to have a length of -2?” Because the -2 length does not make sense, you can then select the proper solution, 7.
- Double check your final answer – This is an important step in solving any question. Once you find the solution, you always want to double check the answer by plugging it back into the original equation, and ensuring that it works. This will help you ensure that your solution is valid, and is also a great way to double check your work.