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How to Solve Math Problems
Last Updated: May 16, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Daron Cam . Daron Cam is an Academic Tutor and the Founder of Bay Area Tutors, Inc., a San Francisco Bay Area-based tutoring service that provides tutoring in mathematics, science, and overall academic confidence building. Daron has over eight years of teaching math in classrooms and over nine years of one-on-one tutoring experience. He teaches all levels of math including calculus, pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, and SAT/ACT math prep. Daron holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and a math teaching credential from St. Mary's College. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 575,354 times.
Although math problems may be solved in different ways, there is a general method of visualizing, approaching and solving math problems that may help you to solve even the most difficult problem. Using these strategies can also help you to improve your math skills overall. Keep reading to learn about some of these math problem solving strategies.
Understanding the Problem
- Draw a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram shows the relationships among the numbers in your problem. Venn diagrams can be especially helpful with word problems.
- Draw a graph or chart.
- Arrange the components of the problem on a line.
- Draw simple shapes to represent more complex features of the problem.
Developing a Plan
Solving the Problem
- Seek help from your teacher or a math tutor if you get stuck or if you have tried multiple strategies without success. Your teacher or a math tutor may be able to easily identify what is wrong and help you to understand how to correct it. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 1
- Keep practicing sums and diagrams. Go through the concept your class notes regularly. Write down your understanding of the methods and utilize it. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
- ↑ Daron Cam. Math Tutor. Expert Interview. 29 May 2020.
- ↑ http://www.interventioncentral.org/academic-interventions/math/math-problem-solving-combining-cognitive-metacognitive-strategies
- ↑ http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/Extras/StudyMath/ProblemSolving.aspx
- ↑ https://math.berkeley.edu/~gmelvin/polya.pdf
About This Article
To solve a math problem, try rewriting the problem in your own words so it's easier to solve. You can also make a drawing of the problem to help you figure out what it's asking you to do. If you're still completely stuck, try solving a different problem that's similar but easier and then use the same steps to solve the harder problem. Even if you can't figure out how to solve it, try to make an educated guess instead of leaving the question blank. To learn how to come up with a solid plan to use to help you solve a math problem, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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Table of Contents
Mathematics can be fun if you treat it the right way. Maths is nothing less than a game, a game that polishes your intelligence and boosts your concentration. Compared to older times, people have a better and friendly approach to mathematics which makes it more appealing. The golden rule is to know that maths is a mindful activity rather than a task.
There is nothing like hard math problems or tricky maths questions, it’s just that you haven’t explored mathematics well enough to comprehend its easiness and relatability. Maths tricky questions and answers can be transformed into fun math problems if you look at it as if it is a brainstorming session. With the right attitude and friends and teachers, doing math can be most entertaining and delightful.
Math is interesting because a few equations and diagrams can communicate volumes of information. Treat math as a language, while moving to rigorous proof and using logical reason for performing a particular step in a proof or derivation.
Treating maths as a language totally eradicates the concept of hard math problems or tricky maths questions from your mind. Introducing children to fun maths questions can create a strong love and appreciation for maths at an early age. This way you are setting up the child’s successful future. Fun math problems will urge your child to choose to solve it over playing bingo or baking.
Apparently, there are innumerable methods to make easy maths tricky questions and answers. This includes the inception of the ideology that maths is simpler than their fear. This can be done by connecting maths with everyday life. Practising maths with the aid of dice, cards, puzzles and tables reassures that your child effectively approaches Maths.
If you wish to add some fun and excitement into educational activities, also check out
- Check out some mind-blowing Math Magic Tricks!
- Mental Maths: How to Improve it?
Cuemath is one of the world's leading math learning platforms that offers LIVE 1-to-1 online math classes for grades K-12 . Our mission is to transform the way children learn math, to help them excel in school and competitive exams. Our expert tutors conduct 2 or more live classes per week, at a pace that matches the child's learning needs.
Fun Maths Questions with answers - PDF
Here is the Downloadable PDF that consists of Fun Math questions. Click the Download button to view them.
Here are some fun, tricky and hard to solve maths problems that will challenge your thinking ability.
Answer: is 3, because ‘six’ has three letters
What is the number of parking space covered by the car?
This tricky math problem went viral a few years back after it appeared on an entrance exam in Hong Kong… for six-year-olds. Supposedly the students had just 20 seconds to solve the problem!
Believe it or not, this “math” question actually requires no math whatsoever. If you flip the image upside down, you’ll see that what you’re dealing with is a simple number sequence.
Replace the question mark in the above problem with the appropriate number.
Which number is equivalent to 3^(4)÷3^(2)
This problem comes straight from a standardized test given in New York in 2014.
There are 49 dogs signed up for a dog show. There are 36 more small dogs than large dogs. How many small dogs have signed up to compete?
This question comes directly from a second grader's math homework.
To figure out how many small dogs are competing, you have to subtract 36 from 49 and then divide that answer, 13 by 2, to get 6.5 dogs, or the number of big dogs competing. But you’re not done yet! You then have to add 6.5 to 36 to get the number of small dogs competing, which is 42.5. Of course, it’s not actually possible for half a dog to compete in a dog show, but for the sake of this math problem let’s assume that it is.
Add 8.563 and 4.8292.
Adding two decimals together is easier than it looks. Don’t let the fact that 8.563 has fewer numbers than 4.8292 trip you up. All you have to do is add a 0 to the end of 8.563 and then add like you normally would.
I am an odd number. Take away one letter and I become even. What number am I?
Answer: Seven (take away the ‘s’ and it becomes ‘even’).
Using only an addition, how do you add eight 8’s and get the number 1000?
888 + 88 + 8 + 8 + 8 = 1000
Sally is 54 years old and her mother is 80, how many years ago was Sally’s mother times her age?
41 years ago, when Sally was 13 and her mother was 39.
Which 3 numbers have the same answer whether they’re added or multiplied together?
There is a basket containing 5 apples, how do you divide the apples among 5 children so that each child has 1 apple while 1 apple remains in the basket?
4 children get 1 apple each while the fifth child gets the basket with the remaining apple still in it.
There is a three-digit number. The second digit is four times as big as the third digit, while the first digit is three less than the second digit. What is the number?
Fill in the question mark
Two girls were born to the same mother, at the same time, on the same day, in the same month and the same year and yet somehow they’re not twins. Why not?
Because there was a third girl, which makes them triplets!
A ship anchored in a port has a ladder which hangs over the side. The length of the ladder is 200cm, the distance between each rung in 20cm and the bottom rung touches the water. The tide rises at a rate of 10cm an hour. When will the water reach the fifth rung?
The tide raises both the water and the boat so the water will never reach the fifth rung.
The day before yesterday I was 25. The next year I will be 28. This is true only one day in a year. What day is my Birthday?
You have a 3-litre bottle and a 5-litre bottle. How can you measure 4 litres of water by using 3L and 5L bottles?
Solution 1 :
First, fill 3Lt bottle and pour 3 litres into 5Lt bottle.
Again fill the 3Lt bottle. Now pour 2 litres into the 5Lt bottle until it becomes full.
Now empty 5Lt bottle.
Pour remaining 1 litre in 3Lt bottle into 5Lt bottle.
Now again fill 3Lt bottle and pour 3 litres into 5Lt bottle.
Now you have 4 litres in the 5Lt bottle. That’s it.
Solution 2 :
First, fill the 5Lt bottle and pour 3 litres into 3Lt bottle.
Empty 3Lt bottle.
Pour remaining 2 litres in 5Lt bottle into 3Lt bottle.
Again fill the 5Lt bottle and pour 1 litre into 3 Lt bottle until it becomes full.
3 Friends went to a shop and purchased 3 toys. Each person paid Rs.10 which is the cost of one toy. So, they paid Rs.30 i.e. total amount. The shop owner gave a discount of Rs.5 on the total purchase of 3 toys for Rs.30. Then, among Rs.5, Each person has taken Rs.1 and remaining Rs.2 given to the beggar beside the shop. Now, the effective amount paid by each person is Rs.9 and the amount given to the beggar is Rs.2. So, the total effective amount paid is 9*3 = 27 and the amount given to beggar is Rs.2, thus the total is Rs.29. Where has the other Rs.1 gone from the original Rs.30?
The logic is payments should be equal to receipts. We cannot add the amount paid by persons and the amount given to the beggar and compare it to Rs.30.The total amount paid is ₹27. So, from ₹27, the shop owner received 25 rupees and beggar received ₹ 2. Thus, payments are equal to receipts.
How to get a number 100 by using four sevens (7’s) and a one (1)?
Answer 1: 177 – 77 = 100 ;
Answer 2: (7+7) * (7 + (1/7)) = 100
Move any four matches to get 3 equilateral triangles only (don’t remove matches)
Find the area of the red triangle.
To solve this fun maths question, you need to understand how the area of a parallelogram works. If you already know how the area of a parallelogram and the area of a triangle are related, then adding 79 and 10 and subsequently subtracting 72 and 8 to get 9 should make sense.
How many feet are in a mile?
Solve - 15+ (-5x) =0
What is 1.92÷3
A man is climbing up a mountain which is inclined. He has to travel 100 km to reach the top of the mountain. Every day He climbs up 2 km forward in the day time. Exhausted, he then takes rest there at night time. At night, while he is asleep, he slips down 1 km backwards because the mountain is inclined. Then how many days does it take him to reach the mountain top?
If 72 x 96 = 6927, 58 x 87 = 7885, then 79 x 86 = ?
Look at this series: 36, 34, 30, 28, 24, … What number should come next?
Look at this series: 22, 21, 23, 22, 24, 23, … What number should come next?
If 13 x 12 = 651 & 41 x 23 = 448, then, 24 x 22 =?
Look at this series: 53, 53, 40, 40, 27, 27, … What number should come next?
The ultimate goals of mathematics instruction are students understanding the material presented, applying the skills, and recalling the concepts in the future. There's little benefit in students recalling a formula or procedure to prepare for an assessment tomorrow only to forget the core concept by next week.
Teachers must focus on making sure that the students understand the material and not just memorize the procedures. After you learn the answers to a fun maths question, you begin to ask yourself how you could have missed something so easy. The truth is, most trick questions are designed to trick your mind, which is why the answers to fun maths questions are logical and easy.
Cuemath, a student-friendly mathematics and coding platform, conducts regular Online Classes for academics and skill-development, and their Mental Math App, on both iOS and Android , is a one-stop solution for kids to develop multiple skills. Understand the Cuemath Fee structure and sign up for a free trial.
- Jan 31, 2021
8 Free Math Problem Solving Websites and Applications
Updated: Oct 23
Are you struggling with math problems and looking for a way to improve your math problem-solving skills? Look no further because these 8 free math problem-solving websites and applications will give you a detailed solution to any math problem! Whether you're a student, educator, or just someone who wants to sharpen their math skills, these resources offer a wealth of interactive tools and exercises to help you master everything from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus.
6 Websites Offering Free Math Worksheets for All Levels
Not only are these websites and applications easy to use, but they also provide a fun and engaging way to learn and practice math. With some of these tools you can even ask math questions and get answers for free. Whether you are a teacher or a student, now you can avail online math problem-solving websites and smartphone applications to get the step-by-step answer to a complex problem. Teachers can even use these tools to develop math quizzes. With interactive games, video tutorials, and real-world examples, you'll be able to put your math knowledge to the test and see real results in no time.
So what are you waiting for? Check out these 8 free math problem-solving websites and applications and start boosting your math skills today!
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In this article, we have compiled a list of 8 such resources that offer interactive tools and expert guidance to help you master math problem-solving and achieve success.
Mathway calculator is a smart math problem solver which gives you a step by step solution to a math problem. Just type your question and press enter to reveal a detailed answer to your math problem. This intelligent math problem solver, simplifies the process with step by step solutions. All it takes is a question input, and upon hitting enter, you unlock a detailed answer. This powerful tool is your key to conquering math challenges efficiently.
It is a smartphone application which is also known as a camera calculator. All you have to do is take a picture of a math problem and upload it. This math app will scan the problem, solve it, and will display a detailed solution on your screen. Photomath, the renowned camera calculator app, makes math effortless. Snap a photo of your math problem, upload it, and watch as this math app scans, solves, and displays a comprehensive solution.
The application efficiently scans, computes, and presents you with a meticulous, step-by-step solution, answering the ever-persistent question: "What is the answer to this math problem?" It's a seamless way to navigate the world of mathematics, placing the solution at your fingertips.
3. Microsoft Math Solver
From algebra and trigonometry to statistics and calculus, Microsoft math solver provides you a free platform where you can not only get detailed solutions to your questions, but also other supporting materials such as interactive graphs, relevant practice problems, and online videos.
In addition to detailed answers, it equips you with valuable resources like interactive graphs, pertinent practice problems, and instructive online videos. It's your gateway to a richer mathematical learning experience, combining the power of answers with educational support.
Cymath is a free application that gives a step by step solution to any math problem. This app does not give you the final answer only, rather the whole solution is broken down into steps for your understanding.
This math problem solver with steps empowers you to tackle math problems with ease, no matter where you are. Simply input your math problem, and let Cymath work its magic, providing you with a detailed solution broken down into manageable steps. No more math conundrums – Cymath has got your back!
This math application that allows you to take a picture of a math problem, solves it intuitively, and displays answer on the screen. This app provides solutions to many math problems ranging from algebra to calculus. The best thing about this app is that it can recognize handwritten math problems too. Isn’t that cool?
Unlock the magic of having your own on-the-go math tutor available at your fingertips! With this revolutionary solution, you'll never be left struggling with a math problem again. Simply snap a picture of the math problem you're facing, and voila! You'll receive a personalized step by step answer to a math problem along with a thorough explanation. It's like having a math genius in your pocket, ready to assist you at any moment.
Quick math provides quick solutions to students for all types of math problems, whether they are related to algebra, calculus, or matrices. Quick Math is your ultimate solution for rapid, hassle-free problem-solving in various mathematical domains. Whether you're grappling with algebra, calculus, or matrices, Quick Math delivers swift and precise answers, empowering students to excel in their studies.
Don't let complex math problems hold you back – unlock the power of Quick Math for seamless problem resolution and mathematical mastery.
Here is another amazing website that answers math problems. Symbolab is an online website that gives you detailed solutions to any math problem related to algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. It is an incredible online math solver that offers comprehensive solutions to a wide range of math problems.
Whether you're a student seeking math homework help or an individual looking for math assistance, Symbolab is your go-to resource. This math help platform provides step-by-step answers and thorough explanations, making it easier for you to grasp complex math concepts. Say goodbye to math-related stress and hello to seamless problem-solving with Symbolab!
8. Chegg Math Solver
It gives you full-time access to an online math calculator or math solver where you can type any math question and get a detailed explanation along with the final answer. Chegg Math Solver is an invaluable step-by-step math problem solver and calculator designed to enhance your comprehension of mathematical concepts.
With its instantaneous solutions, it empowers users to conquer problems in subjects like Pre-Calculus and beyond, making math learning more accessible and engaging.
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Constructive Tips on How to Approach Math Questions
- October 7, 2019
A wise man once said maths stands for Mental Abuse To Humans. But jokes aside math can be kind of fun once you get a hang of it. But how do you go about doing that? The first step to getting better at math is learning how to effectively approach math problems. Here are some of the top tips on how to can do just that.
Moreover, there are lots of apps that can help you with math as well, find out more here .
Read the Problem Carefully
The first step to solving a math problem is figuring out if you understand the problem. This is especially crucial for word problems of math as they tend to be tricky. For instance, you may have gotten a question like “At a party, everyone shook hands with everybody else. There were 66 handshakes. How many people were at the party?”. For questions like this, you need to read the text carefully and make sure you understand what the question is asking. (The answer is 12 by the way, can you figure out how to do it?)
Identify The Given Information & The End Goal
This is perhaps the most important part of solving a math problem. When solving a math question you need to identify what information you’ve been given and what the question wants you to figure out. For instance, if you are asked to solve for the number of apples left when 2 of a dozen have been eaten. You can easily write down the information given as “the number of apples we had” and “the number of apples that are eaten”. Then you can see that you are looking for is “the number of apples left” which is 10! Of course, this is a very simple problem but the same process can apply to much more complex problems.
Solve the Question Step By Step
Have you ever wonder why math tests ask you to show your steps? There are multiple reasons but the most important reason is for you to demonstrate your understanding of the question. Each mathematical question can be solved much more easily if you follow the right steps in the correct order. The best way to learn how to do so is to practice solving problems and get familiar with the step by step process. Websites such as Khan Academy are a great place to start practicing since they provide you with step by step solutions. Also, keep in mind that you are not trying to memorize the steps to solving the problem. Math problems vary greatly even when they are on the same topic. Hence why two questions that seem very similar may require you to take different steps towards solving them. So when approaching math problems, develop a plan for how you are going to go about solving it step by step.
Learn Multiple Solving Method
Most math problems are solvable in multiple ways. Certain math problems can be easily solved using one method only but there are benefits to knowing different mathematical approaches to the same problems. For instance, you can ensure your answer is right by solving the problem in two different ways. In addition, your understanding of the problems will improve by a lot.
Visualize the Math Problem
Visualization is very effective for solving math problems. In fact, math involves the ability to visualize problems and form a mental image of how to go about solving the problems. Although sometimes it’s hard to visualize the problem especially if it’s a word-heavy one. For those instances, you try to put the problem in your own words and then attempt to visualize it again.
Look for What Formulas/Conditions/Assumptions Need to be Applied
Factors such as formulas, conditions, and assumptions are often used in many solutions. Depending on the lesson and type of question you may need to use a specific formula or assumption to get to the solution. For instance, can you imagine how much harder solving quadratic problems would be without using the quadratic formula? Thus, make sure you have lots of practice using mathematical formulas, conditions, and assumptions since that’s the only way you will be able to easily recognize when is the right time to use them.
Implement The Working Backward Heuristic
Going back to visualizing, one effective way of doing so is using the work backward heuristic. In this method, you imagine you have found the answer and then you try to visualize working backward. By doing so you will get a sense of the step you need to take to solve the problem. Furthermore, after solving the problem you can work backward and see if you can get to the original information given. Overall, working backward can help you visualize the solution and ensure your answer is correct at the same time hence why it’s so effective.
Math can quite literally torture students mentally. But once you build a strong foundation of math and implement the methods above, you will be able to conquer any math question as easy as 1, 2, 3. Who knows, you may even end up finding math problems enjoyable to solve!
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How to Study Maths: 7 Tips for Solving Maths Problems
Mathematics is a subject that every student has to study at one time or another. Some love it but if we’re being honest, most people hate studying maths. The importance of maths for students has never been more prominent. Most university courses include some level of maths while almost every profession uses maths in some form on a daily basis. The problem many students have is that they don’t know how to study maths to get good results.
Maths is one of those subjects which you can easily spend hours studying but end up none the wiser. However much you have studied, if you can not solve the problem on day of the test, you are lost. Thankfully, there are some techniques for studying maths that you can do regardless of your level.
7 Tips for Maths Problem Solving
1. practice, practice & more practice.
It is impossible to study maths properly by just reading and listening. To study maths you have to roll up your sleeves and actually solve some problems. The more you practice answering maths problems, the better . Each problem has its own characteristics and it’s important to have solved it in numerous ways before tackling the exam. There is no escaping this reality, to do well in a Maths exam you need to have solved a LOT of mathematical problems beforehand.
2. Review Errors
When you’re practising with these problems, it’s important to work through the process for each solution . If you have made any mistakes, you should review them and understand where your problem-solving skills let you down. Understanding how you approached the problem and where you went wrong is a great way of becoming stronger and avoiding the same mistakes in the future.
3. Master the Key Concepts
Do not try to memorise the processes. This is counter-productive. It is much better and rewarding in the long-run to focus on understanding the process and logic that is involved. This will help you understand how you should approach such problems in the future.
Remember that Maths is a sequential subject so it’s important to have a firm understanding of the key concepts that underpin a mathematical topic before moving on to work on other, more complex solutions which are based on understanding the basics.
4. Understand your Doubts
Sometimes you can get stuck trying to solve part of a maths problem and find it difficult to move on to the next stage. It’s common for many students to skip this question and continue on to the next. You should avoid doing this and instead spend time trying to understand the process of solving the problem. Once you have grasped an understanding of the initial problem, you can use this as a stepping stone to progress to the remainder of the question.
Remember: Maths requires time and patience to master.
It is a good idea to study with a friend who you can consult with and bounce ideas off when trying to solve complex problems.
5. Create a Distraction Free Study Environment
Mathematics is a subject that requires more concentration than any other. A proper study environment and a distraction free area could be the determining factor when solving complex equations or problems in geometry, algebra or trigonometry!
Studying with music can help create a relaxing atmosphere and stimulate the flow of information. Having suitable background music can foster an environment of maximum concentration.
6. Create a growing Mathematical Dictionary
Mathematics has specific terminology with a lot of vocabulary . We suggest you create notes, flash cards or cheat sheets with all the concepts, terminology and definitions you need to know. You should include their meanings, some key points and even some sample answers so you can consult them at any time and recap.
7. Apply Maths to Real World Problems
As much as possible, try to apply real-world problems when approaching maths. Maths can be very abstract sometimes so looking for a practical application can help change your perspective and assimilate ideas differently.
Probability, for example, can be used in everyday life to predict the outcome of something happening and determine whether you want to take a risk such as if you should buy a lottery ticket or gamble.
Don’t forget that it’s also important to have confidence in yourself and face the exam knowing that you have prepared properly!
Article credit: https://www.goconqr.com/en/examtime/blog/how-to-study-maths/
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17 maths problem solving strategies to boost your learning.
Worded problems getting the best of you? With this list of maths problem-solving strategies , you'll overcome any maths hurdle that comes your way.
Friday, 3rd June 2022
- What are strategies?
Understand the problem
Devise a plan, carry out the plan, look back and reflect, practise makes progress.
Problem-solving is a critical life skill that everyone needs. Whether you're dealing with everyday issues or complex challenges, being able to solve problems effectively can make a big difference to your quality of life.
While there is no one 'right' way to solve a problem, having a toolkit of different techniques that you can draw upon will give you the best chance of success. In this article, we'll explore 17 different math problem-solving strategies you can start using immediately to deepen your learning and improve your skills.
What are maths problem-solving strategies?
Before we get into the strategies themselves, let's take a step back and answer the question: what are these strategies? In simple terms, these are methods we use to solve mathematical problems—essential for anyone learning how to study maths . These can be anything from asking open-ended questions to more complex concepts like the use of algebraic equations.
The beauty of these techniques is they go beyond strictly mathematical application. It's more about understanding a given problem, thinking critically about it and using a variety of methods to find a solution.
Polya's 4-step process for solving problems
We're going to use Polya's 4-step model as the framework for our discussion of problem-solving activities . This was developed by Hungarian mathematician George Polya and outlined in his 1945 book How to Solve It. The steps are as follows:
We'll go into more detail on each of these steps as well as take a look at some specific problem-solving strategies that can be used at each stage.
This may seem like an obvious one, but it's crucial that you take the time to understand what the problem is asking before trying to solve it. Especially with a math word problem , in which the question is often disguised in language, it's easy for children to misinterpret what's being asked.
Here are some questions you can ask to help you understand the problem:
Do I understand all the words used in the problem?
What am I asked to find or show?
Can I restate the problem in my own words?
Can I think of a picture or diagram that might help me understand the problem?
Is there enough information to enable me to find a solution?
Is there anything I need to find out first in order to find the answer?
What information is extra or irrelevant?
Once you've gone through these questions, you should have a good understanding of what the problem is asking. Now let's take a look at some specific strategies that can be used at this stage.
1. Read the problem aloud
This is a great strategy for younger students who are still learning to read. By reading the problem aloud, they can help to clarify any confusion and better understand what's being asked. Teaching older students to read aloud slowly is also beneficial as it encourages them to internalise each word carefully.
2. Summarise the information
Using dot points or a short sentence, list out all the information given in the problem. You can even underline the keywords to focus on the important information. This will help to organise your thoughts and make it easier to see what's given, what's missing, what's relevant and what isn't.
3. Create a picture or diagram
This is a no-brainer for visual learners. By drawing a picture,let's say with division problems, you can better understand what's being asked and identify any information that's missing. It could be a simple sketch or a more detailed picture, depending on the problem.
4. Act it out
Visualising a scenario can also be helpful. It can enable students to see the problem in a different way and develop a more intuitive understanding of it. This is especially useful for math word problems that are set in a particular context. For example, if a problem is about two friends sharing candy, kids can act out the problem with real candy to help them understand what's happening.
5. Use keyword analysis
What does this word tell me? Which operations do I need to use? Keyword analysis involves asking questions about the words in a problem in order to work out what needs to be done. There are certain key words that can hint at what operation you need to use.
How many more?
How many left?
Once you understand the problem, it's time to start thinking about how you're going to solve it. This is where having a plan is vital. By taking the time to think about your approach, you can save yourself a lot of time and frustration later on.
There are many methods that can be used to figure out a pathway forward, but the key is choosing an appropriate one that will work for the specific problem you're trying to solve. Not all students understand what it means to plan a problem so we've outlined some popular problem-solving techniques during this stage.
6. Look for a pattern
Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to look for a pattern. This could be a number, a shape pattern or even just a general trend that you can see in the information given. Once you've found it, you can use it to help you solve the problem.
7. Guess and check
While not the most efficient method, guess and check can be helpful when you're struggling to think of an answer or when you're dealing with multiple possible solutions. To do this, you simply make a guess at the answer and then check to see if it works. If it doesn't, you make another systematic guess and keep going until you find a solution that works.
8. Working backwards
Regressive reasoning, or working backwards, involves starting with a potential answer and working your way back to figure out how you would get there. This is often used when trying to solve problems that have multiple steps. By starting with the end in mind, you can work out what each previous step would need to be in order to arrive at the answer.
9. Use a formula
There will be some problems where a specific formula needs to be used in order to solve it. Let's say we're calculating the cost of flooring panels in a rectangular room (6m x 9m) and we know that the panels cost $15 per sq. metre.
There is no mention of the word 'area', and yet that is exactly what we need to calculate. The problem requires us to use the formula for the area of a rectangle (A = l x w) in order to find the total cost of the flooring panels.
10. Eliminate the possibilities
When there are a lot of possibilities, one approach could be to start by eliminating the answers that don't work. This can be done by using a process of elimination or by plugging in different values to see what works and what doesn't.
11. Use direct reasoning
Direct reasoning, also known as top-down or forward reasoning, involves starting with what you know and then using that information to try and solve the problem . This is often used when there is a lot of information given in the problem.
By breaking the problem down into smaller chunks, you can start to see how the different pieces fit together and eventually work out a solution.
12. Solve a simpler problem
One of the most effective methods for solving a difficult problem is to start by solving a simpler version of it. For example, in order to solve a 4-step linear equation with variables on both sides, you could start by solving a 2-step one. Or if you're struggling with the addition of algebraic fractions, go back to solving regular fraction addition first.
Once you've mastered the easier problem, you can then apply the same knowledge to the challenging one and see if it works.
13. Solve an equation
Another common problem-solving technique is setting up and solving an equation. For instance, let's say we need to find a number. We know that after it was doubled, subtracted from 32, and then divided by 4, it gave us an answer of 6. One method could be to assign this number a variable, set up an equation, and solve the equation by 'backtracking and balancing the equation'.
Now that you have a plan, it's time to implement it. This is where you'll put your problem-solving skills to the test and see if your solution actually works. There are a few things to keep in mind as you execute your plan:
14. Be systematic
When trying different methods or strategies, it's important to be systematic in your approach. This means trying one problem-solving strategy at a time and not moving on until you've exhausted all possibilities with that particular approach.
15. Check your work
Once you think you've found a solution, it's important to check your work to make sure that it actually works. This could involve plugging in different values or doing a test run to see if your solution works in all cases.
16. Be flexible
If your initial plan isn't working, don't be afraid to change it. There is no one 'right' way to solve a problem, so feel free to try different things, seek help from different resources and continue until you find a more efficient strategy or one that works.
17. Don't give up
It's important to persevere when trying to solve a difficult problem. Just because you can't see a solution right away doesn't mean that there isn't one. If you get stuck, take a break and come back to the problem later with fresh eyes. You might be surprised at what you're able to see after taking some time away from it.
Once you've solved the problem, take a step back and reflect on the process that you went through. Most middle school students forget this fundamental step. This will help you to understand what worked well and what could be improved upon next time.
Whether you do this after a math test or after an individual problem, here are some questions to ask yourself:
What was the most challenging part of the problem?
Was one method more effective than another?
Would you do something differently next time?
What have you learned from this experience?
By taking the time to reflect on your process you'll be able to improve upon it in future and become an even better problem solver. Make sure you write down any insights so that you can refer back to them later.
There is never only one way to solve math problems. But the best way to become a better problem solver is to practise, practise, practise! The more you do it, the better you'll become at identifying different strategies, and the more confident you'll feel when faced with a challenging problem.
The list we've covered is by no means exhaustive, but it's a good starting point for you to begin your journey. When you get stuck, remember to keep an open mind. Experiment with different approaches. Different word problems. Be prepared to go back and try something new. And most importantly, don't forget to have fun!
The essence and beauty of mathematics lies in its freedom. So while these strategies provide nice frameworks, the best work is done by those who are comfortable with exploration outside the rules, and of course, failure! So go forth, make mistakes and learn from them. After all, that's how we improve our problem-solving skills and ability.
Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're struggling to solve math word problems, there's no shame in seeking assistance from a certified Melbourne maths tutor . In every lesson at Math Minds, our expert teachers encourage students to think creatively, confidently and courageously.
If you're looking for a mentor who can guide you through these methods, introduce you to other problem-solving activities and help you to understand Mathematics in a deeper way - get in touch with our team today. Sign up for your free online maths assessment and discover a world of new possibilities.
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