Five Step Problem Solving Process

Now that we have a plan, it's time for the big English-to-equation translation.The second step in solving word problems is turning the words into one or more mathematical expressions or equations.

I should say that plugging in values isn't always necessary.

For example, we don’t actually have numerical values to use in our problem.

In our case, we need to figure out how to write an equation that takes the current weight on a scale and gives us back the number of dog toys hidden on it. Well, let’s take the total weight on the scale, which we’ll call W_total, and subtract the weight of just the towels, which we’ll call W_towels.

The difference between these two weights must be equal to the combined weight of all the dog toys, W_toys: But we don’t actually want to know the weight of the toys, we want to know the number of toys. Well, if we know the total weight of all the toys, W_toys, and we divide that by the weight of a single toy, W_toy (assuming they're all the same weight), we get the total number of toys, Ntoys: But how did we know the values of W_towels and W_toy?

Which makes sense since our equation was only intended to be used to tell our computer how to convert from total weight to total number of dog toys—we weren’t actually looking for a specific answer to a specific problem.

Five Step Problem Solving Process

Slow down and take a minute to think about your result.

By following the whole process, you will be able to enhance your problem-solving skills and increase your patience.

Keep in mind that effective problem solving does take some time and attention.

The biggest mistake people make when solving problems is trying to solve them too soon.

The most important thing to do when faced with a problem like this is to stop working on it.


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