Understanding the problem is the key.

(1)Read through the problem and then reread to find out what you are trying to find. Then list any facts given.

(2)I would next draw a diagram or build a model where applicable. This is a key step -- if you can visualize the...

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Understanding the problem is the key.

(1)Read through the problem and then reread to find out what you are trying to find. Then list any facts given.

(2)I would next draw a diagram or build a model where applicable. This is a key step -- if you can visualize the problem it is much easier to proceed.

(3)Assign variables -- usually you would assign a variable to the quantity that you are solving for.

(4)Write a mathematical statement/equation.

(5) Estimate the answer. As indicated in Post 2, this is a very important step.

(6) Solve the math problem.

(7) Check your answer. Is it close to your estimate? Did you answer the question. (Often students solve the math problem and get an answer for "x", but fail to answer the actual question.) Did you include the correct units?

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If you are having trouble getting started ask yourself the following questions and act on them: Can you solve a simpler problem? Have you seen a similar problem? Would it help to try to solve a specific problem in order to see what the general solution is? Would it help to solve a more general problem?

One very useful method is to write on the problem. I like to circle numbers and underline directions. This helps make word problems simpler. You will also need to know how to "translate" math symbols into English. For example, = means "is" in English.

The book "Better Grades & High Test Scores/MATH" by Incentive Publications, Inc. provides some very good information about how to approach and solve word problems.

Here are some tips:

1) Make sure that you understand what the problem is stating so you can correctly define the problem. In some cases, there might not be enough information to solve the problem. In other cases, there might be extraneous information (too much information) that you might not need. Make sure you can clearly define the problem.

2) Translate the words into math symbols. For example, if you see the words "more than" that indicates using addition, product indicates multiplication, etc. There are often good lists of words and their English meanings in textbooks or on the Internet.

3) Create an equation or strategy for solving the problem. Sometimes, you need to make charts or lists rather than create an equation for a problem. You may need to draw a quick picture or make a graph or chart to solve the problem. Do not try to skip this step--drawing a quick sketch of the problem usually helps most students.

4) Estimate the answer. Take a moment to estimate the answer. This is so that when you get your answer, you can tell if it is reasonable or not. This is an important step that not many students follow. Students often give answers such as $500 when they are calculating the amount of tax on a $1.50 item. If the student would have taken the time to estimate that the answer should be less than $2, he/she would know that an answer of $500 is way off base.

5) Follow the formula and write out all of the steps. Most students try to skip steps and this is usually when they make errors.

6) Check your answer. Go backwards through the steps and see if you get to your original starting point. Or, plug the answers back into the equation and see if they make a correct statement.