Introduction to Math Word Problem Solving

As I have mentioned in the previous post, I will be starting a Math Word Problem Solving Series for elementary school and high school students. If you can recall, I have already started this series before, but it was discontinued for a while.

In this series, we are going to learn some of the basics of solving word problems and learn some strategies and tricks to make problem solving easier. This series will include tutorials on how to solve number problems, age problems, number digit problems, distance-rate-time problems, base-rate-percentage problems, mixture problems, etc.

Problem solving ability is developed over time. If you want to be good at it, then you have to practice solving a lot of problems. Reading this series will probably help you a little, but solving the problems yourself will make you a better problem solver.

One of the things that you should know first in problem solving is how to translate phrases into mathematical expressions. I am going to teach you how to do it, but you should be familiar with the common phrases used. Below are some of these phrases and their equivalent mathematical expressions. In the expressions, we use x as the symbol for the unknown.

  • 5 added to a number: x + 5
  • the product of a number and 3: 3x
  • 10 subtracted from a number: x – 10
  • twice a number: 2x
  • the sum of thrice a number and 2: 3x + 2
  • five times the difference of a number and 4: 5(x – 5)
  • three consecutive numbers: x, x + 1 and x + 2
  • two consecutive odd numbers: x and x + 2
  • the product of twice a number and itself: (2x)(x)
  • separate 50 into two parts: x and 50 – x
  • Josie’s age three years ago: x – 3
  • Anna’s age two years from now: x + 2

Familiarize yourself with these phrases and their equivalent mathematical expressions. In the next post, we are going to start solving number problems.

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