How to Solve Word Puzzles

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When solving word puzzles, determine the formula that the word problem is outlining, plug in the known information from the word problem, and solve for the unknown information. Dissect a word problem to make it easier to understand with information from a standardized test prep instructor in this free video on education.

Part of the Video Series: Education: English, Math & Teaching
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Let's look at how to solve a word puzzle or a word problem. The most important thing in a word problem is to identify what formula the word problem is calling upon. Then, these are the steps. Write the formula... and I'll show you exactly in a minute... but write the formula. Plug in what you know, so plug in for the variable that we know and then solve for what you don't. I find that this little... these three steps actually can really change how a student views word problems. So let's take an example. Let's say they said that Johnny is going to run ten miles in two hours. And we want to know his speed. Okay, so this is a distance equals rate times time question. How do you know. First of all a lot of word problems are distance equals rate times time, but also a lot of times in school you can just ask what formulas are being gone over in the chapter you're working on, and it's probably going to be one of those. If not, just look at the info you have and think about what formula you know that uses a bunch of the info from the question. So this one gives us a distance and a time. So it's distance equals rate times time. So, let's use our three steps. Write the formula. Done. Two, plug in what you know. So we know the distance. Johnny went ten miles. We don't know the rate. We do know the time. Took him two hours. Okay, so this is great. A lot of people get really stumped when they see a word problem and they don't know where to go. But if you follow this formula it gets a lot easier. So you're going to write the formula out, plug in what we do know, and then solve for what we don't. And this formula works so well because you don't even need to know where you're headed sometimes. Just plug in what you're given. You know just literally instead of D, write ten, instead of T, write two. And then you're going to notice there's something left over. And by the way a lot of times they'll say something like, "What was his rate?" And there's another tip off. There's another tip off that you need D equals RT for rate, and there's another tip off that that's going to be the one that's left over. Anyway so whatever is left over, you solve for. Now, how do we solve this? We have ten equals R times two. We want to get R alone. Solve for R means get R alone. So we need to eliminate the two. These are being multiplied so we're going to do the opposite which is divide. So we get R alone equals ten over two which is five. So in this case Johnny's rate was five miles per hour. Now, the most important thing to take from this is when you're on a word problem, follow these three steps. Identify the formula we're dealing with, plug in what you know. Don't even get intimidated about where you're headed with it. Just follow steps. Plug in what you know even if it's a longer equation. And then solve for whatever variable we don't know and there's your answer.

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