Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.
Not all word problems are so straightforward that they only require you to do one operation and you're done. Some are more complicated, requiring several steps. Watch this video lesson to learn how to solve these kinds of problems.
Solving Word Problem Steps
This might sound repetitive, but don't be afraid of word problems. You've probably heard that before, and it's true. Don't shy away from these problems. Face your fear! Once you tackle word problems using the steps to solve a word problem, you will be that much stronger!
These are three steps to successfully solve any word problem. The first is to visualize the problem. Fully understand the problem so you know what you need to solve and what is going on in the problem. The second is to write equations from the problem that will help you answer the question from the problem. The third is to solve your equations.
This is easy to do for word problems that only require you to do one step, like simply adding two things. But what if the word problem is a bit more complicated? What if you needed to do more than one operation to solve? What if you needed to multiply and then subtract to find your answer? How would you apply the steps to solving a word problem in this situation?
Let's find out. We will use these steps to help us solve a somewhat complicated word problem.
A Multiple-Step Word Problem
Sue is a baker. She bakes all kinds of goodies, like apple pies and cheese pies. Yum! On Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, Sue bakes apple pies. She bakes cheese pies on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If Sue bakes 50 pies a day, how many more apple pies does Sue bake than cheese pies in a week?
Our first step in solving this word problem is to visualize our problem. What's going on? The best way to do this is just to picture a little cartoon show in your head of what is going on. We see a little Sue the baker baking pies. Three days a week, she is baking apple pies. The other two days of her workweek, she bakes cheese pies. So, she spends more time baking apple pies than cheese pies.
That means she makes more apple pies than cheese pies. She bakes 50 pies each day she works. Now what is the problem asking us? It's asking us how many more apple pies does Sue bake than cheese pies. Okay. We can answer that. We have all the information we need to solve that.
Now that we fully understand the problem, we can go through and underline, highlight and make note of all the important pieces of information that we need. We highlight the part that says Sue bakes 50 pies a day. Next, we make a note that she bakes apple pies for three days and cheese pies for two days. In order to find our answer, we know we first need to find the number of apple pies she makes in a week and the number of cheese pies she makes in a week. We then need to subtract the number of cheese pies from the number of apple pies.
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Now we can go ahead and write our equations. We will label her apple pies with an a and her cheese pies with a c. To find the number of pies she bakes in a week, we need to multiply the number of days she bakes a certain pie by the number of pies she bakes in a day. So we have a = 3 * 50 for the number of apple pies she bakes, since she bakes apple pies for three days. We have c = 2 * 50 for the number of cheese pies she bakes in a week, since she bakes cheese pies for two days. Our final equation is x = a - c, where x is the answer we are looking for, a is the number of baked apple pies and c is the number of baked cheese pies.
Notice that we need to perform two different operations in order to find our answer. We need to multiply first and then subtract in order to find our answer. But wasn't it fairly straightforward once we fully understood our problem and made our little notes and highlights?
Finishing the Problem
Now, to finish our problem, we perform the operations as needed. We need to multiply first. So we go ahead and do that. We multiply a = 3 * 50 to get 150. So Sue bakes 150 apple pies in a week. Next, we multiply c = 2 * 50 to get 100. Sue bakes 100 cheese pies in a week. Comparing these two numbers, we see that we are right. Sue does bake more apple pies than cheese pies. The last step in our problem now requires us to subtract. So we subtract x = a - c, which is x = 150 - 100, which equals 50. We have our answer! Sue bakes 50 more apple pies than cheese pies. We are done!
Now let's review. We learned that to solve word problems, we follow a 3-step process. The first step is to visualize the problem to fully understand it. The second step is to write the equations needed to solve the problem. The third and final step is to solve those equations.
We also learned that we can apply these steps to multiple-step word problems. We just need to keep in mind that we may have to do our problem in parts. We may have to perform one operation first followed by another to find our final answer. But the more we practice and the more visualization we do, the better we will get.
When you are done with this lesson you should be able to recall and use the three step process to solve word problems.
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