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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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We know that when we are at the store that, when we want to find out how much we will save, we simply take the cost of the item and multiply it by the discount in decimal form. So, 25% becomes 0.25, and we multiply it with the 80 to find our answer of 20. We will save $20. Not bad. That's enough to buy a whole pizza for dinner!

Another Example

Let's look at another example. This is our word problem: 'The best baker in America uses 8 sticks of butter to bake his renowned pound cake. How many sticks of butter does he use to bake 3 cakes?'

If we like to cook and bake, this problem works out great for us. But what if we hated baking and the very thought of 8 sticks of butter makes us sick to the stomach? What then? Well, we can personalize this problem and restate it using words that we are more familiar with.

Since we like shopping, we can restate the word problem using shopping terms instead. We can restate it like this: 'You see your favorite shirt at the store for $8. How much does it cost to purchase 3 of those shirts?' We've restated our problem using terms that we are more familiar with. Now that the problem doesn't make us sick to our stomach, it actually makes us want to find the answer. Because we are familiar with this scenario, we can easily see that to find the answer, we need to multiply the two numbers together. So, 8*3 gets me my answer of 24.

Lesson Summary

So, what have we learned? We've learned that personalizing a word problem, or restating the word problem using terms that you are more familiar with, will help you to visualize it and to solve it easier. To personalize a word problem, we look at the problem and think of where in our life we might see numbers such as the ones mentioned in the problem.

When we think of a real life situation where we see those types of numbers, we can restate our word problem using the terms that we would use in that situation. Once we have done that, it will be that much easier to visualize what the problem wants us to find. And because we are now familiar with what is going on, it will be that much easier to solve.

Learning Outcomes

Following this lesson, you should be able to:

Recall how to personalize a word problem

Explain how personalizing a word problem can make it easier to solve the problem

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