How to Solve Multi-Step Algebra Equations in Word Problems

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  • 0:02 The Problem
  • 0:54 Understanding the Problem
  • 2:42 Writing the Equation
  • 3:59 Solving the Problem
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

After watching this video lesson, you will be able to solve word problems like a pro. Learn how to setup your problem, write your equations and then solve your equations to find your answer.

The Problem

In this video lesson, we are going to learn how to solve multi-step algebra word problems. These are problems written in English that require you to perform several operations to find the answer. I know, word problems are the worst thing ever. But keep watching and see whether or not you will find them easier to work with once you've learned what is in this video.

We begin with a problem. See, there is this concert coming up that I really want to go to. The tickets cost $200. That's just for one ticket! Anyways, I'm not complaining about the price, just saying it's expensive. My problem is I want to bring some of my friends with me, but I can only bring so many. I want to know how many friends I can bring with me. The amount of money I have to spend comes from working 20 hours at a job that pays $20 per hour. Can you help me figure this out?

Understanding the Problem

Our first step to solve this problem is to really understand the problem and what we need to solve for. So, after carefully reading the problem and understanding its meaning, we highlight the important parts of the problem. We see that the tickets are $200 each. I worked 20 hours at a job paying $20 per hour. And I want to know how many friends I can bring. Those are my important parts of the problem. Everything else I can ignore.

Now that I have highlighted the important parts, we can label them with appropriate math symbols. I first want to label what I am supposed to solve for. I ask myself, 'What is the problem asking for?' After looking over the highlighted important parts of the problem, I see that the problem is asking for the number of friends that can come. I place an x next to that part to tell me that this is what I want to solve for. I can label the 20 hours worked with the words 'hours worked' and the $20 per hour with the words 'pay per hour.'

Now we need to think about how all this information goes together to help us find the answer. We want to find the number of friends that can come. In order to do that, we need to find out how much money we have to spend. To find the amount of money we have to spend, we need to find out how much money is earned after working the 20 hours. How do we do that? We need to multiply the hours worked with the pay per hour.

Once we have the amount of money we can spend, we then can split it into groups of $200 to see how many tickets can be purchased with that amount. One of the tickets will be for me and the rest will be for the friends. The number of extra tickets is what we are looking for.

Writing the Equation

We know how all the information is tied together now and what we need to do with the information. We can now write our mathematical equation. Sometimes, we may even need to write several smaller equations to get us our answer.

What was the first thing we needed to find out? We needed to find out how much money we earned after working 20 hours. What did we say we needed to do to find that out? We needed to multiply the hours worked with the pay per hour. So, our equation here is this:

money earned = 20*$20

Next we take our money earned and split it into groups of 200 to see how many total tickets we can purchase. What operation would we need to do that? Isn't it division? Yes, we divide our money earned by 200 to see how many tickets we can purchase.

number of tickets = money earned/200

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