Algebra word problems may not be pleasant, but skills in algebra are needed for so many different things in life. Learning algebra helps you develop critical thinking skills, including those related to logic, problem-solving, patterns, and reasoning.
That’s not to say that becoming an expert algebra word problem solver is easy! In fact, it takes a lot of practice to get the hang of these puzzles.
To solve algebra word problems – which are simply just longer-form questions that require you to translate the information in the text into equations and then solve them – you will need to have a few skills.
Not only will you need to understand how to translate sentences into equations, but you’ll also need to be able to evaluate algebraic expressions, solve linear equations with just one variable, and more.
Sounds simple, but it can be more complicated than you might think! In this post, we’ll walk you through the most helpful tips for solving algebra word problems.
Whether you’re in pre-algebra, algebra 1, algebra 2, or some other math course, you’re sure to get an A on your next exam!
What Are the 4 Steps for Solving Algebra Word Problems?
There are many different kinds of algebra word problems out there, but they can all be solved by following these four simple steps:
- Define and identify your variable.
- Write an equation that uses the variable.
- Solve the equation.
- If the variable is not the correct answer to the word problem, use that variable to figure out the answer.
Sounds easy, right? It can be – especially with practice. Check out this video, which will give you a few more helpful tips for solving word problems, then keep reading to learn everything else you need to know about algebra problems:
How to Solve Word Problems in Algebra: 5 Helpful Tips
When you’re solving algebra word problems, it’s smart to have a plan of attack ready to follow. Solving word problems may seem difficult, but when you read through the problem and can figure out what the specific equation is, it’s no harder than a regular algebra problem. Here are some tips for getting a solid system of steps to follow when you are solving algebra word problems:
1. Read through the entire problem before trying to solve it.
While it might seem tempting to start working on the problem as soon as you get halfway through the first sentence, you need to be patient. When you read through the entire problem, you’ll have a better chance of noticing any variables that are given and any that you need to solve for.
2. Look for keywords in the algebra word problems that can signal which operation you will be doing.
These keywords can go a long way in helping you determine how to set up the algebra equations. Here’s a list of some common keywords to get you started:
- Addition: added to, combined, increased by, more than, sum, total
- Subtraction: decreased by, difference of, less than
- Multiplication: increased by a factor of, multiplied by, times
- Division: out of, per, ratio of
- Equals: are, gives, is, will be
Note that these keywords are not a complete list; you will definitely see other words used to mean these operations, but keep in mind how the numbers and variables are positioned and what is being asked, and you should be able to add to this keyword list yourself!
Also, be sure to pay close attention to the relationship of the two variables when it comes to division and subtraction. It matters which variable comes first, and when the algebra word problem asks for the difference between x and y, when you write the algebra out, you will show x – y. Likewise, the ratio of x and y written out will show x / y.
3. Underline anything that will be important for setting up the algebra equations or solving the word problem.
When you have read through the entire word problem, you will want to go back through and underline anything important. This might include the keywords you’ve just found and any variables, as well as what your solution needs to be, so that you can set up the proper algebra equations.
When you underline or highlight these important parts, you can quickly reference the things you need to without having to read through the entire problem again. This makes it easier to go back and double check that you’ve got the right equations and variables set up, without losing your train of thought halfway through solving the algebra word problem.
4. Write down everything that comes to mind as you’re solving the algebra word problem.
This way, you won’t have to try to remember what each variable is that you’re solving for, or whether you’re multiplying or dividing by two in the next equation. You can concentrate on each small task within the algebra problem, and then put the pieces together at the end. Having a written record of each variable also helps when it comes time to give your solution, as you know what variable has the answer in it!
Writing down notes also functions as a way to double-check when you’ve got your solution ready. When you’re solving an algebra problem in your head, you won’t have any way to go back and walk through your solution again if you missed a step. On the other hand, if you write down each step while solving the problem, you can retrace your steps and make sure your answer is correct.
5. Practice, practice, practice!
Above anything else, algebra word problems need practice on a consistent basis. By working a few algebra word problems each day, you’ll be able to fine-tune your solving methods and work on any of the rough parts.
Here are some links you can follow that have helpful resources to give you some practice in solving algebra word problems:
- 7th grade algebra word problems practice
- Algebra 1 word problems samples
- Algebra 2 word problems examples
- Pre-algebra word problems
You’re lucky that you’re learning how to solve algebra word problems in the day and age of the Internet. Nowadays, there are all kinds of helpful resources that can help you solve algebra problems, including this algebra word problem calculator and this algebra word problem solver app.
It’s helpful to learn the basics of solving algebra word problems before you lean too heavily on these tools, though, of course. That way, you’ll master the necessary skills to double check yourself and make sure the answer you’re getting when using these sorts of tools are accurate.
How Do You Create an Algebraic Equation from a Word Problem?
Let’s sum up. If you’re still having trouble writing algebraic equations from word problems, follow these quick tips.
- Identify the unknown – this will be your variable, or what you are searching and trying to solve the problem for.
- Look for keywords to help you write the equation. Highlight them and write the equation to match. Again, some good keywords to look for include things like increase, decrease, times, divided by, per, share, quadruple, reduce, and total.
- Write it down, then solve it!
Still feeling a little lost? That’s ok! Check out this video, which has some more helpful tips to walk you through the process of solving algebra word problems:
How Do You Do Algebra Problems?
Algebra word problems can be tricky to solve, but there are all kinds of resources that can help you out.
For example, working with a private math tutor can help you keep up with the math topics. A private tutor will be able to give you the personalized attention necessary to work on the concepts in algebra or other math courses, and work at a pace that is just right for you.
A tutor can also provide you with practice problems (like an algebra word problems worksheet or other resources) that focus on the specific areas that you need help with, such as setting up algebra word problems that emphasize certain areas over others.
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