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Turning Word Problems into Equations

```Date: 04/15/2002 at 14:14:07
From: Amanda Beasley
Subject: Math

Dear Doctor Math,

Algebra is sometimes hard for me and the thing I hate most about Math
is word problems. I don't like turning word problems into equations
because it is too confusing. Is there a certain technique that might
help me out?

Thanks a lot,
Amanda Beasley
```

```
Date: 04/15/2002 at 14:59:47
From: Doctor Ian
Subject: Re: Math

Hi Amanda,

It _can_ be confusing turning problems into equations, but the
interesting thing is that once you've done that, it's usually _less_
confusing to work with the equations than to try to work with the
words directly.

In fact, the whole _point_ of converting things to equations is that
once you know that a certain trick works on a certain kind of
equation, you can use that same trick no matter _what_ kind of story
led to the equation. It doesn't matter if it's a story about mowing
lawns, or the ages of some family members, or a boat going across a
river, or two guys painting a house.

In fact, that's one of the things that makes math so powerful. Because
everyone uses the same representation, if somebody in Berlin comes up
with a trick to help her solve a problem that comes up while trying to
build a bridge, somebody else in San Francisco can use that same trick

You can find some tips on doing the translations at

Algebraic Sentences
http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/57538.html

and in the Dr. Math FAQ:

Word Problems
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.word.problems.html

But getting good at this is more a matter of practice than anything
else, and getting enough practice is often just a matter of convincing
yourself that the practice is going to be worth your while.

I hope this helps.  Write back if you'd like to talk more

- Doctor Ian, The Math Forum
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
```
Associated Topics:
Middle School Algebra
Middle School Word Problems

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