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Technical Mathematics, Sixth Edition by Michael A. Calter Ph.D., Paul A. Calter

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3.2. Solving Word Problems

In this section we will be asked to

  • read a short statement, the so-called word problem

  • then decide exactly what is being asked for

  • then write an equation that describes how the unknown quantity is related to the given quantities

  • and finally, solve that equation to obtain the quantity that was asked for.

Math skills are important, but so are reading skills. Most students find word problems difficult, but if you have an unusual amount of trouble with them you should seek out a reading teacher and get help.

Keep in mind that we are not solving these problems for their own sake. We don't really care how long it takes runner A to reach city Q. What we are trying to do is to help you to read a technical statement, to extract the important information, and to use simple mathematics to find a missing quantity. These skills will also help you to deal with the mountains of technical material in written form with which we are all faced: instruction manuals, textbooks, specifications, contracts, insurance policies, building codes, handbooks, and so forth.

It is not possible to give a step-by-step procedure that will enable someone to solve any word problem, but we can give some good tips that are almost always helpful. We first give some general tips on how to approach any word problem and later show how to set up specific types.

3.2.1. Study the Problem

Read the problem carefully, more than once if necessary. Be sure you understand the words used. A technical problem ...

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