Cochise College    Physicsweb
                       Physics Educational Resources 
 Roger Weller, geology instructor
 
wellerr@cochise.edu

                          

                  Rules for Solving Word Problems
 

The following is a suggested list of rules for solving word problems. 
Some steps may be eliminated depending upon the nature of the problem. 
The sequence of steps is also not fixed.

 

1. Make a simple sketch of the problem (if reasonable and practical).

 

2. Assign variables to quantities.

 

3. Identify knowns and unknowns and put these values in proper units
    (do conversions).

 

4. Write down the equations that may pertain to the problem.

 

5. Solve problem algebraically first and then plug in the numbers.

 

6. Check answers and units.

 

7. Ask the question, "Does the answer seem reasonable?"

 

8. Circle or highlight the answer so someone can find it.

 

Additional hints for solving word problems:

 

1. Check to make sure that there is sufficient information available in
    order to solve the problem.

 

2. Eliminate superfluous information.

 

3. Identify hidden assumptions.

 

4. Work only on the front side of a piece of paper.

 

5. Work on one step at a time; don't skip steps.

 

6. Don't crowd steps; put a blank line or space between each step.

 

7. Work downwards along the left side of the paper.

 

8. Don't crowd problems. Put several lines or spaces between
    problems or only do one problem per page.