Easy Steps For Solving Word Problems

Word problems are not straightforward where students can read a topic, ‘addition’ and then mechanically solve all sums under that category: 1 + 10, 50 + 140, 1000 + 1200, etc. There is no clear indication of a mathematical equation in a ‘word’ problem and the question doesn’t present itself in an easy solvable format. Probably that’s the reason why students are not too confident of dealing with math word problems and find excuses to skip that part in their exam paper. Often learners fail to see the ‘math’ behind word problems and thereby can’t figure which formula to apply.

Let’s show you how to approach word-problems in a step by step manner. Simply put these techniques to practice, and eliminate your fear of having to decode sentences into a solvable equation.

#1 Read The Problem

Comprehending the text, first require the student to read the problem multiple times, until he is clear of what needs to be done next. Often students are in a hurry and skip reading full sentences, thereby getting confused & make errors. One needs to word by word read aloud and try and understand the meaning behind important keywords.

For Example:

Tom has 24 chocolates, which is 7 lesser than his friend John. How many chocolates does John have?

Read this carefully a couple of times and you will discover keywords that denote a specific hidden meaning. Just by reading ‘lesser than’ doesn’t mean that 24 – 7 = 17 is the answer. If Tom has 7 chocolates lesser than John, then John has to have ‘more’ number of chocolates. Which means John has 24+7=31 chocolates. You see, to figure out the ‘hidden’ meanings, one needs to really take time to understand the wordings in the first place.

#2 Graphical Representation of Word Problem

Some students are comfortable solving a word problem by drawing pictures, rather than using mental math techniques. Drawing makes the ‘addition’ / ‘subtraction’ process easier, as one can strike out the items while counting and reduce the chance for errors. However, make sure you are considering all aspects of the problem while pictorially representing the equation.

#3 Break the Equation and Write Down Steps

It is always better to write down and list the details of a complex 4-5 lines word problem, to make things easier. Listing all the points down, ensures that you do not skip any detail and are able to correctly put things into perspective, before rushing to get the right answer. Make a rough column at the side of the exam paper and write down all bullet points that are important.

For Example:

There are two Ashoka trees in the forest. The tall Ashoka tree is 16 feet in height and the short tree is 6 feet shorter than the tall one. Tina has a ladder that is 14 feet in height. As compared to the taller tree, how short is the ladder.

  • Tall Ashoka Tree 16 feet height
  • Short Ashoka Tree 6 feet shorter than tall one (16 feet – 6 feet = 10 feet)
  • Ladder height is 14 feet
  • Ashoka tree is 16 feet and ladder is 14 feet
  • Ladder is shorter than the tall Ashoka tree by (16 feet – 14 feet = 2 feet)

#4 Construct a Formula

Translate the terms written in English into math symbols and create a formula or an equation which can be used to solve the sum.


  • Increased by (+)
  • Added together (+)
  • Comparatively smaller (-)
  • Twice as large (x2)
  • One portion of the pizza divided equally in 4 parts (1/4)

Teddy had 8 socks, now he is left with only 3. How many socks did Teddy give his sister Stella?

8 – x = 3

8 – 3= x

5 = x

Verify: 8 – 5 = 3

Answer: Teddy gave 5 socks to Stella.

Practice the above steps to simplify the word problems, before solving them. The more your child practices, the better he will get at it and would be able to attempt it faster in the exam paper. Wondering where you would find readymade practice math word problems? Try out Mastheads – Real learning, real math, real fun! Mathseeds is trusted teachers with a satisfaction score of 8.9 out of 10 and is loved by students with a high rating of 9.2 out of 10. Even in Dubai and all-over Middle East, Mathseeds is a go-to for Math learners in R – years of schooling. The platform introduces kids to interesting characters and motivates them by gifting them golden acorns.

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