How to Solve Multi-Step Word Problems

Multi-step word problems may initially seem daunting, but with a structured approach, they become manageable and less intimidating. Here, we provide a step-by-step guide to help you navigate these complex problems with ease.

How to Solve Multi-Step Word Problems

A Step-by-step Guide to Solving Multi-Step Word Problems

Step 1: Understand the Problem

The first step in solving multi-step word problems is to read the problem carefully. Look for keywords and phrases that suggest what arithmetic operation(s) you will need to apply. Words like ‘in total’, ‘altogether’ or ‘sum’ suggest an addition, ‘less than’ or ‘remain’ hint towards subtraction, ‘product’ or ‘times’ indicate multiplication, and ‘quotient’ or ‘divided by’ point to division.

Step 2: Identify the Steps Needed

After understanding the problem, list out the necessary steps to reach the solution. Each word problem is a unique puzzle with its sequence of operations. Some problems may require you to perform multiplication before addition, while others may need subtraction followed by division.

Step 3: Assign Variables

For problems with unknown quantities, assign a variable (for example, \(X\) or \(Y\)) to each unknown. This strategy makes it easier to organize information and apply arithmetic operations.

Step 4: Write Equations

Formulate equations based on the identified steps and assigned variables. Keep in mind the order of operations (BIDMAS/BODMAS) – Brackets, Indices/Orders, Division and Multiplication (from left to right), Addition, and Subtraction (from left to right).

Step 5: Solve the Equations

Solving the equations might require simple substitution or more advanced techniques like elimination or matrix method in the case of multiple variables. Don’t forget to check your solutions to make sure they satisfy the original equations.

Step 6: Answer the Question

Finally, ensure that your answer responds to the question asked in the problem. For example, if the problem is asking for the total number of apples, your answer should be a number and mention ‘apples’.

Practical Example

Let’s apply these steps to a sample problem: “Sarah bought \(2\) books. Each book cost twice as much as a pen. She bought \(4\) pens. If each pen cost \($5\), how much did she spend in total?”

Step 1: The problem involves multiplication (each book cost twice as much as a pen) and addition (total amount spent).

Step 2: First, find the cost of a book and then calculate the total cost.

Step 3: Let’s say \(X\) is the cost of a book.

Step 4: The equations will be \(X = 2 \times the\:cost\:of\:a\:pen\) and Total cost = cost of books + cost of pens.

Step 5: Substituting the given cost of a pen (\($5\)), we find \(X = $10\). The total cost is then calculated as \((2 \times $10) + (4 \times $5) = $40\).

Step 6: The total amount Sarah spent is \($40\).

In conclusion, with a systematic approach, you can effectively solve any multi-step word problem. Remember, practice is the key. The more problems you solve, the better you will become at identifying the necessary steps and solving them accurately.

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