In order to solve word problems, there are several things that
you must be prepared to do. Among these are the following: **read**
critically, **read** slowly, **read** completely, pick out main ideas,
and most of all **give yourself a chance**.

Many students believe that solving word problems is beyond them.
This is simply not true. With dedication to the use of proper and
effective problem solving methods, you can and will be
successful. The level of success depends on your **effort** and your
degree of **preparation**. Make sure that you do not commit yourself
to failure before you have even read the problem. Give it the
"old college try."

The points mentioned in the first paragraph are entry skills that
must be worked on early and **reinforced constantly**. When you read
critically, you have to figure out what is really the **point of
the story**. The point could be that there are two trains heading
in different directions rather than in the same direction. The
point may be that the you want to know Juan's salary instead of
Julie's. As you search for the important components of the
problem, remember that you are **not in a race**. **Take your time**.
Looking over key information and heading straight for the numbers
only leads to wrong answers. Make sure that you do not skip over
**anything** in the problem. You are dreaming if you expect to have
the answer to the problem as soon as you get to the question
mark. It won't happen, trust me. Often, it is a great idea to
leave your pencil alone until you have read through the problem
at least once. All of your language skills will come into play
here. Try to find main ideas, verbs, and subjects here. Doing
algebra well comes from knowing language structure.

Here is a list of steps that can be put to use and modified by you to solve word problems. Remember that these are suggestions and can be amended as you see fit. The steps are not exactly the same as what's in your book, but they work just as well.

**1. Read the problem - SLOWLY!!!!!!!! **

Trying to solve it on the first go around will lead to difficulties. Leave your pencil on the desk and just read, like you would your favorite book or magazine.

**2. Re-read the problem.**

Now you may pick up your pencil and begin to underline parts of the problem or make notes.

**3. Pick out key TERMS, WORDS, and NUMBERS.**

Look for the things that will help you effectively and
efficiently solve the problem. **TERMS** are words that generally
tell you what to do. For instance, "sum" means "add." **WORDS** that
have importance do not usually tell you what to do, but what to
do it to. Examples of important words might include names,
places, geometric figures, units of measure, and even directions.
In this course, almost every **NUMBER** is important. There will be
times when a number is there just to throw you off. Make sure you
read the question to decide which numbers are important.

**4. Make a chart, picture, table, or graph AND LABEL IT.**

For some problems and for some people, this step is optional. In most cases, however, it is a highly valuable step. Many of us need to put the important information into a nice neat package or to see what is really going on. Once you have this piece done, you no longer should need the original problem as it was stated. If you do not draw it, you will almost always miss it. This is especially true with geometric figures and moving objects.

**5. Form appropriate relationships.**

This does not mean that you find a study buddy or a spouse. This
means that you will now need to find a **formula** that you can use
for this situation or create an **equation** that will get the job
done. This part is where the language skills come into play. Make
sure that "verbs" are represented by "=" and you pick variables
that easily identify your subjects. Do not use "x" for width, use
"w." Remember who has to remember what the "x" stood for.
**Translation** skills are needed here to go from English to Algebra
(Mathematics). Play close attention to word order and word
meanings. It is not a good idea to memorize every problem in the
book. Your instructor can always change a number, a sign or the
word order and create an entirely different problem. Stay calm
and use your found information.

**6. Solve the equation(s).**

Now that you have a useable equation or formula. Substitute (plug in) what you know and solve for what you do not know. Use whatever techniques you know to find your solution(s).

**7. Solve the problem.**

**Read** the problem one last time. Make sure that you give the
answer to the question that you had been asked to do. Please, do
not make up your own problem to solve. Do not give Philip's age
when the question wants Raquel's age. If the question wants two
things, find both answers.

**8. Check your work and solution.**

It is a good idea to check to make sure that your steps and
thinking were appropriate. Also, make sure that **your answer makes
sense** based on the given information. By the way, **don't make a
right answer wrong **by giving more information than was asked.

Following these steps and modifying them as the problems and situations warrant will get you on the right track to success.