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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 577,841 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

Step 1 Identify the type of 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.

Step 5 Look for patterns.

Developing a Plan

Step 1 Figure out what formulas you will need to solve the problem.

Solving the Problem

Step 1 Follow your plan.

Expert Q&A

Daron Cam

  • 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

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Do Math Proofs

  • ↑ 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

Daron Cam

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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How to Solve Algebra Problems Step-By-Step

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Solving Algebra word problems is useful in helping you to solve earthly problems. While the 5 steps of Algebra problem solving are listed below, the following will help you learn how to first identify the problem.

  • Identify the problem.
  • Identify what you know.
  • Make a plan.
  • Carry out the plan.
  • Verify that the answer makes sense.

Identify the Problem

Back away from the calculator ; use your brain first. Your mind analyzes, plans, and guides in the labyrinthine quest for the solution. Think of the calculator as merely a tool that makes the journey easier. After all, you wouldn’t want a surgeon to crack your ribs and perform a heart transplant without first identifying the source of your chest pains.

The steps of identifying the problem are:

  • Express the problem question or statement.
  • Identify the unit of the final answer.

Express the Problem Question or Statement

In Algebra word problems, the problem is expressed as either a question or a statement.

  • How many trees will John have to plant?
  • How many televisions will Sara have to sell to earn $50,000?
  • Find the number of trees John will have to plant.
  • Solve for the number of televisions Sara will have to sell to earn $50,000.

Identify the Unit of the Final Answer

What will the answer look like? Now that you understand the word problem’s purpose, determine the answer’s unit. For example, will the answer be in miles, feet, ounces, pesos, dollars, the number of trees, or a number of televisions?

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  • The golden rule of algebra states Do unto one side of the equation what you do to others. Meaning, whatever operation is being used on one side of equation, the same will be used on the other side too.
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Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems

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Math word problems can be tricky and often challenging to solve. Employing the SQRQCQ method can make solving math word problems easier and less intimidating.

The SQRQCQ method is particularly useful for children with learning disabilities and can be used effectively in special education programs. SQRQCQ is an abbreviation for Survey, Question, Read, Question, Compute, and Question.

Step 1 – SURVEY the Math Problem

The first step to solving a math word problem is to read the problem in its entirety to understand what you are being asked to solve. After you read it, you can decide the most relevant aspects of the problem that need to be solved and what aspects are not relevant to solving the problem. The idea here is to get a general understanding.

Step 2 – QUESTION

Once you have an idea of what you’re attempting to solve, you need to determine what formulas, steps, or equations should be utilized in order to find the correct answer. It is impossible to find an answer if you can’t determine what needs to be solved. Basically, what are the questions being asked by the problem?

Step 3 – REREAD

Now that you’ve determined what needs to be solved, reread the problem and pay close attention to specific details. Determine which aspects of the problem are interrelated. Identify all relevant facts and information needed to solve the problem. As you do, write them down.

Step 4 – QUESTION

Now that you’re familiar with specific details and how different facts and information within the problem are interrelated, determine what formulas or equations must be used to set up and solve the problem. Be sure to write down what steps or operations you will use for easy reference.

Step 5 – COMPUTE

Use the formulas and/or equations identified in the previous step to complete the calculations. Be sure to follow the steps you outlined while setting up an equation or using a formula. As you complete each step, check it off your list.

Step 6 – QUESTION

Once you’ve completed the calculations, review the final answer and make sure it is correct and accurate. If it does not appear logical, review the steps you took to find the answer and look for calculation or set-up errors. Recalculate the numbers or make other changes until you get an answer that makes sense.

How does SQRQCQ help students with learning disabilities?

Math word problems tend to be especially challenging for Learning Disabled (LD) students. LD students often lack “Concept Imagery”, or the ability to visualize the whole problem by creating a complete mental image. They often jump right into calculations and computations without understanding what the problem is asking or what they’re looking for.

LD students may also struggle to understand the words or wording within math word problems correctly. The inability to correctly interpret and understand wording greatly impacts their math reasoning skills and often leads them to making the wrong calculations and arriving incorrect conclusions.

Remembering and manipulating information and details in their working memory is another challenge some LD students face as they try to see the whole picture. Slow processing of information, followed by frustration and anxiety, will often lead LD students to try and get through math word problems as quickly as possible – which is why they often jump straight into computations in their attempt to make it to the finish line as quickly as possible.

SQRQCQ is a metacognitive guide that provides LD students with a logical order for solving math word problems. It provides just enough direction to guide them through the reasoning process without overwhelming them. SQRQCQ is also a mnemonic that is easy for students to remember and which they can fall back on when completing homework or taking tests.

Read also: – A Guide for Studying Math

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