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Hi, my name is Bassem Saad. I'm an associate math instructor and a Ph.D. candidate, and I'm here today for about.com to give you some tips for solving math problems.

Find Key Words and Phrases

Let's take a look at an example: Bill ran one mile in 12 minutes, and Cindy ran a mile in 11 minutes. So how much longer did it take Bill to run the mile than Cindy? The first thing you want to do is look for key words and phrases that tell us if we want to add, subtract, multiply, or divide.

So here's a list of key words for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division:
Addition, some key words are: sum; total; in all; and parameter.
Subtraction: difference; how much more; and exceeds by.
Multiplication: product; area; and times.
And for division, we have quotient and average.
So let's find our key words: “How much longer?” Well that mean subtraction. So the next step is to find out what are we subtracting. How much longer did it take Bill to run than Cindy? So it takes Bill 12 minutes to run the mile, and it took Cindy 11 minutes to run the mile.

So our next step is to write the mathematical expression for the word problem. 12 minus 11, and have one minute remaining.

Use Visual Aids to Help Solve Math Problems

Let's take a look at one more example. John wants to build a fence around his rectangular yard. Find the perimeter if his yard is 30 feet by 40 feet. So let's look for the key term: perimeter. That means we're going to add the length of the sides. So it's helpful to draw a picture to know what we're adding. So a rectangle has a shape like this, with one side being 30 feet and a parallel side also being 30 feet. Another side being 40 feet, and it's parallel side being 40 feet. So the perimeter is just 30 feet, plus 30 feet, plus 40 feet, plus 40 feet, giving us a grand total of 140 feet. So now you have some useful tips for solving math problems.

Thanks for watching, and to learn more visit us on the web at About.com.
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