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How to Solve Algebra Word Problems - 5 Steps

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Do you feel a sliver of anxiety when your teacher assigns word problems? Some Algebra students would prefer doing 12 straight hours of math with just numbers – and no words – to avoid one word problem. Why is this? Problem solving is the most relevant aspect of Algebra. Don’t get me wrong, I love factoring polynomials, but seriously, when is that skill required in real life?

Use the following steps to solve word problems.

1. Identify the Problem

Back away from the calculator; use your brain first. Your mind analyzes, plans, and guides in the labyrinthine quest for the solution. Think of the calculator as merely a tool that makes the journey easier. After all, you wouldn’t want a surgeon to crack your ribs and perform a heart transplant without first identifying the source of your chest pains.

2. Identify What You Know

Sometimes, we use the wrong information. Correctly examine the information of a word problem to uncover the correct answer.

3. Make a Plan

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. Problem solving is easier after a few rough drafts.

4. Carry out the Plan

Practice implementing a problem solving plan.

5. Verify That the Answer Makes Sense

The last step is where the problem solving concert (yes, Algebra is art!) concludes in harmony or crashes in dissonance. There are two red flags that signal wrong answers.

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