Tips To solving Word Problems

Is your child having difficulties with word problems? In this blog, I offer 6 tips on helping your child to navigate solving word problems.

1. Know the Meanings of Commonly Used Words in Math

A tip for helping your child to become a better word problem solver is to make sure that your child knows the meanings of commonly used words in math.  A beginning step to solving a word problem is to translate the words into math, so it’s important that the child knows the meanings of commonly used words.

Some commonly used words in math and their meanings are

  • of means to multiply
  • is means equal to
  • per means to divide
  • consecutive means one right after another
  • to find the product means to multiply
  • to find the sum means to add
  • if you’re taking the difference, you’re subtracting
  • if it says less than, you subtract FROM
  • the numerator is the top of the fraction and the denominator is the bottom of the fraction
  • percent means how many parts you have out of 100


help solving word problems

2. Substitute in Easy Numbers for Harder Numbers First if you are Stuck

If the problem involves “hard” numbers, a trick I sometimes use is to substitute in “easy” numbers first and solve the problem.  Then the same method I used to solve the problem using the “easier” numbers, I use this same method to solve the problem with the “harder” numbers.

For example, suppose you have the problem, the rope is 9 ¾ inches long and you want to cut it so that each piece is 3/8 of an inch.  How many pieces of rope will you end up with?

Suppose the problem had said that the rope is 10 inches long, and we want to cut the rope so that each piece is 2 inches long.  And then it asked how long each piece would be.  To do this problem with these easier numbers, it’s not hard to see that’d we just do 10 ÷ 2 and get 5.  So we are going to do the same thing with the “harder” numbers so we’d do 9 ¾ ÷ 3/8 = 26.  So the answer is we’d have 26 pieces of rope.

3. Make Sure You Answer the Question Being Asked

Have the child double check that he actually answered the question being asked.  This may seem intuitive, but some students will give an answer BUT it’s not the answer to the question asked.

For example, suppose the question says that a book cost $2, and the sales sales on the book is 5%.  How much is the sales tax?

The student without really reading the problem carefully think that he needs to give the FINAL price of the book as his final answer when in actuality for this problem, he is not being asked the final price but instead the amount of the sales tax.  So make sure your student checks that his final answer is to the question being asked.

4. Make Sure the Answer Makes Sense

Ok, so the child did some calculations and has an answer, but does it make sense?  Get the child in the pattern of asking himself whether the answer he obtained makes sense.  He may know how to do a problem and perhaps made a simple calculation error.  Perhaps the answer is supposed to be 15.5, but he made a mistake when he was multiplying decimals and instead his answer is 155.  So when possible, have your child ask himself after he has an answer, “Does this answer make sense?”

5. Write out piece by piece the information Given

Have the child write out piece by piece the information given in the word problem.  For example, in the rope word problem above, he can write out:

total rope length = 9 ¾

want each piece of rope to be 3/8 inches

how many pieces of rope will there be = ?

This process hopefully helps him get a clearer picture of the information he is given.

6. Practice Solving Word Problems

Have your child practice solving word problems.  You can give him easy questions at first to help build his confidence.  Even with easier word problems, it’s good that he is able to practice translating words to math.


Were any of the tips given things you hadn’t thought of?  Do you have additional tips for solving word problems.  If so, please leave your suggestions in the comments below.  Thanks.


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Is your child in 6th grade or higher, and he is struggling with math?  Do you need help identifying possible holes in your child’s math education?  Check out the ebook 20 Possible Holes in Your Child’s Math Education.

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