Solving Word Problems
Our Algebra 1 tutorial software program contains over 60 topic areas. One of them is
Solving Word Problems, and this page summarizes the main ideas of this topic. This page is intended for review, and is not a substitute for the interactive, self-paced tutorials of the MathTutor algebra 1 software program.
In this lesson we'll learn to solve simple word problems. We'll begin by examining a problem
stated in English. Then we'll convert the problem into an algebraic equation which we can solve.
Sally is F times older than Joan. If Joan's age is 7, what is Sally's age?
We will begin by translating the words in the problem into symbols and an equation.
After the problem is expressed as an equation, we can solve it to find the solution.
- Let's examine the first sentence:
Sally is F times older than Joan.
Now express the important quantities as variables:
Let S stand for Sally's age
Let J stand for Joan's age
Now our sentence reads:
S is F times older than J
- Next, to write an equation, look for the word 'is' and
substitute an equals sign for it:
S = F times older than J
- Next, look for words that can be translated into operations.
In this case, the phrase 'times older than' implies multiplication. So, this sentence
really means that Sally's age equals Joan's age multiplied by F. Now we can finish translating the sentence.
S = FJ
- Last, replace J (Joan's age) with 7.
S = 7F
This is our final answer. When writing a term with multiplication, we generally place the constant (7) before the variable (F).