Work with a pencil and a serious eraser. It’s ok to make mistakes. Relax if you haven’t built a perfect problem solving model as quickly as your classmates. Consider the U.S. Constitution, a document designed to answer the question: How will Americans be governed?
This controversial document was still a work in progress in its 18th century infancy. The Bill of Rights was an editorial change (ok, a political change to protect We the People from King George-ish tyranny). Problem solving is easier after a few rough drafts.
Here are the 5 steps to solving any Algebra word problem:
- Identify the problem.
- Identify what you know.
- Make a plan.
- Carryout the plan.
- Verify that the answer makes sense.
This article will focus on Step 3, Make a plan.
Methods of Building Your Plan
- Write down your plan
- Talk out your plan
- Make a table
- Draw a line, circle, or bar graph
- Draw any other type of graph
- Draw a picture (You’re never too old to do this.)
- Work backward
Example 1: Algebra Word Problem
The Pennrose Theater expects 275 patrons per new movie every weekend. How many new movies should they show this weekend if they expect 2,200 patrons?
Make a Plan
For every new movie, 275 patrons come to the Pennrose Theater.
1 movie = 275 patrons
2 movies= 275 *2 = 550 patrons
3 movies= 275*3= 825 patrons
275*number of movies = 2,200 patrons or 275*m = 2,200, where m represents the number of movies.
Solve for m to answer the question.
Example 2: Algebra Word Problem
The area of a rectangle is p6q3 square inches. If the length is p4q2 inches, then what is the width in inches?
Make a Plan
The exercise wants me to find the width, but I only have area and length.
Think: What formula has area, length, and width? Area of a rectangle includes all three!
Arearectangle= length * width
p6q3 = p4q2 * width
Solve for width to answer the question.