Personalizing a Word Problem to Increase Understanding

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  • 0:01 Personalizing Word Problems
  • 0:36 Restating a Word Problem
  • 2:09 Visualizing Word Problems
  • 3:04 Another Example
  • 4:06 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.

When it comes to word problems, being able to personalize a word problem with more familiar situations will help you a lot in your problem solving. Watch this video lesson to learn how you can restate the word problem in terms you understand.

Personalizing Word Problems

The first and most important step in solving word problems is that of visualizing the problem to fully understand the problem. One way you can do this is by personalizing the word problem. This is what we will be considering in this video lesson.

Personalizing word problems involves restating the word problem using terms that you are more familiar with. Using terms that you are familiar with will make it easier for you to visualize or picture in your head what is going on in the problem. And if you can picture in your head what is going on, then it will be that much easier for you to figure out how to solve it.

Restating a Word Problem

So, how do we personalize a word problem? We think about what the problem is telling us, and then we restate it using words we understand. For example, if our word problem is asking us to find 25% of 80, we can think of it in terms of shopping, if we like to shop. Where the word problem may be dry and boring, we can turn it into something more exciting for us. Restating our word problem in terms of shopping, we can say, 'How much will we save if the discount is 25% off an item that costs $80?'

How did we come up with these terms? Well, we thought about where we would normally see percentages that are easy for us to understand. Since we like to shop, we immediately thought of the discounts that we see and look for when we shop. From the way the word problem is worded, we now recognize that it is asking us how much we will save with a certain percentage discount.

Once we have restated our word problem, it becomes much easier to visualize the word problem and then solve it. One thing you need to make sure of, though, is that your restated problem is asking for the same solution as the original word problem. Whatever visualization you choose, your restated problem needs to use the same amounts that were used in the original problem. If your problem talks about something being less than something else, you need to make sure that your objects in your restated problem are less by the same amount. In our example where we changed objects, we made sure that our numbers stayed with the appropriate object so that our word problem was the same.

Visualizing Word Problems

So, for our example, we can picture ourselves at a store looking at a really nice pair of shoes that we have been wanting. The shoes cost $80, but for today, the store is offering a 25% discount on them. Now that seems like a good discount. So, the problem is asking us to find out how much of a discount we will get. Thinking like this helps us to keep our numbers straight and will help us figure out what we need to do to solve the problem. Now that we have that scenario in mind, we are in a much better position to solve it.

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