Translating word problems: keywords

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Translating word problems: keywordsThe hardest thing about doing word problems is taking the English words and translating them into mathematics. Usually, once you get…
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Translating word problems: keywordsThe hardest thing about doing word problems is taking the English words and translating them into mathematics. Usually, once you get the math equation, you're fine; the actual math involved is often fairly simple. But figuring out the actual equation can seem nearly impossible. What follows is a list of hints and helps. Be advised, however: To really learn "how to do" word problems, you will need to practice, practice, practice.The first step to effectively translating and solving word problems is to read the problem entirely. Don't start trying to solve anything when you've only read half a sentence. Try first to get a feel for the whole problem; try first to see what information you have, and what you still need.The second step is to work in an organized manner. Figure out what you need but don't have, and name things. Pick variables to stand for the unknowns, clearly labeling these variables with what they stand for. Draw and label pictures neatly. Explain your reasoning as you go along. And make sure you know just exactly what the problem is actually asking for. You need to do this for two reasons: Working clearly will help you think clearly, and
  • Figuring out what you need will help you translate your final answer back into English.
  • Regarding (2) above: It can be really frustrating (and embarrassing) to spend fifteen minutes solving a word problem on a test, only to realize at the end that you no longer have any idea what "x" stands for, so you have to do the whole problem over again. I did this on a calculus test -- thank heavens it was a short test! -- and, trust me, you don't want to do this to yourself!The third step is to look for "key" words. Certain words indicate certain mathematical operations. Below is a partial list.Note that "per" means "divided by", as in "I drove 90 miles on three gallons of gas, so I got 30 miles per gallon". Also, "a" sometimes means "divided by", as in "When I tanked up, I paid $12.36 for three gallons, so the gas was $4.12 a gallon".Examples:A restaurant has 12 tables for non-smokers and 7 tables for smokers. How many tables does the restaurant have in all?Key words: ___________________________ Indicating what operation: ___________________Answer: __________________________Last year, the Bigbux Corporation made a profit of $3,178,302. The profit for this year was increased by $837,926. What was the profit for this year?Key words: ___________________________ Indicating what operation: ___________________Answer: __________________________The Sutton family took the scenic route to their summer cottage, driving 644 miles. To save time on the way home, they took the interstate highway, traveling 572 miles. How much longer is the scenic route?Key words: ___________________________ Indicating what operation: ___________________Answer: __________________________Please do the rest of these at your leisure if you finish testing before the allotted time is up.
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