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Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems (Grade 6)

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Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems

Solving math word problems can be intimidating. After all, this is math, what's with all the words? However, word problems offer an advantage, they tell a story and stories follow a logical progression set in the context of everyday life. So don't dread word problems, rather, focus on their stories and use the steps below as a guide to tackling them.

1. Read the Problem - Try to understand the story before dealing with the numbers.
TIP! Use a piece of blank paper to cover everything but the problem.
2. Circle the numbers - If a number is in a word problem, chances are you will need it.

3. Underline key words that represent math operations:
$+$ Addition: sum, add, total, more, plus, increase, together, combine
$-$ Subtraction: less, fewer, subtract, minus, difference, take away, decrease
CAUTION! "5 less x" means "5 - x" and "5 less than x" means "x - 5"
$xx$ Multiplication: times, product, multiply, twice
$-:$ Division: quotient, divided by, per, ratio
$=$ Equal: is, were, equivalent, same, equal to, will be

4. Underline or highlight the question(s) that you need to answer (not the entire problem!)
TIP! Use a fresh piece of scrap paper or graph paper to work out each problem.
5. Develop a strategy.
$square$ If there is a figure or picture, use it. Add numbers and information to it from the problem.
$square$ If there no figure or picture, draw one. Label with information from the problem.
$square$ Make a table or graph. If the problem describes multiple sets of information, organize it in a table or graph. Look for patterns in the data.
$square$ Look for missing information. If it seems like you need another number to solve the problem, that is most likely the unknown. Assign a variable to the unknown.

6. Solve the problem. Use the information from steps 1 - 5 to work through the problem.

7. Re-read the question - make sure you answered what the problem was asking. A common error is only solving part of the problem.

8. Double-check your math. Watch for calculation and sign errors.