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How to Use a Coordinate Grid to Solve Number & Word Problems

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

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

When it comes to solving math word problems, you can use various tools to help you solve the problem. One of these tools is the coordinate grid. This lesson will show you how to use the coordinate grid to visualize your problem and find an easy solution to it.

A Coordinate Grid

After you learned your basic mathematics operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, one of the most useful tools you'll be discover is the coordinate grid. The coordinate grid is a grid with a horizontal axis and a vertical axis. It looks like grid paper only the lines have numbers attached to them like this:


coordinate grid problems


The numbers get larger going to the right and the top. The horizontal axis is called the x-axis, and the vertical axis is called the y-axis.

A Math Problem

When it comes to solving math problems, you can use the coordinate grid to help you solve it. You can use it to draw your problem on it so you can picture your problem on paper. You can then use your picture to help you find your answer.

Let's try solving this problem with the help of a coordinate grid.

Susan is trying to figure out the best route to get to Andrew's house. She knows that she lives three houses to the right of Jenny. Jenny lives eight houses down from James. And James lives three houses to the left of Andrew. How far away is Andrew's house from Susan?

Using the Coordinate Grid

To use the coordinate grid to help you solve this problem, you can plot the locations of your houses on the coordinate grid. You can imagine that each intersection is a house. Since the problem didn't give the specific location of any of the houses, you can choose to begin plotting anywhere on your coordinate grid. The easiest place to start at is the point (0, 0).

So, you can draw Susan's house at (0, 0).


coordinate grid problems


Reading the problem, you then see that Susan's house is three houses to the right of Jenny. This means that Jenny's house is three houses to the left of Susan's house. You move three squares to the left, and you can plot Jenny's house at (-3, 0).


coordinate grid problems


Next, you read that Jenny lives 8 houses down from James. So James lives 8 houses up from Jenny's. Moving 8 squares up, you plot James' house at (-3, 8).


coordinate grid problems


Then you see that James lives three houses to the left of Andrew. This means you need to move three squares to the right from James' house to find Andrew's house at (0, 8).


coordinate grid problems


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