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 to help him solve a problem about loading and unloading ships. 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 about this, or anything else. - Doctor Ian, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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