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How to Solve Math Problems

Last Updated: May 16, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Daron Cam . Daron Cam is an Academic Tutor and the Founder of Bay Area Tutors, Inc., a San Francisco Bay Area-based tutoring service that provides tutoring in mathematics, science, and overall academic confidence building. Daron has over eight years of teaching math in classrooms and over nine years of one-on-one tutoring experience. He teaches all levels of math including calculus, pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, and SAT/ACT math prep. Daron holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and a math teaching credential from St. Mary's College. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 572,778 times.

Although math problems may be solved in different ways, there is a general method of visualizing, approaching and solving math problems that may help you to solve even the most difficult problem. Using these strategies can also help you to improve your math skills overall. Keep reading to learn about some of these math problem solving strategies.

Understanding the Problem

Step 1 Identify the type of problem.

  • Draw a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram shows the relationships among the numbers in your problem. Venn diagrams can be especially helpful with word problems.
  • Draw a graph or chart.
  • Arrange the components of the problem on a line.
  • Draw simple shapes to represent more complex features of the problem.

Step 5 Look for patterns.

Developing a Plan

Step 1 Figure out what formulas you will need to solve the problem.

Solving the Problem

Step 1 Follow your plan.

Expert Q&A

Daron Cam

  • Seek help from your teacher or a math tutor if you get stuck or if you have tried multiple strategies without success. Your teacher or a math tutor may be able to easily identify what is wrong and help you to understand how to correct it. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 1
  • Keep practicing sums and diagrams. Go through the concept your class notes regularly. Write down your understanding of the methods and utilize it. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ Daron Cam. Math Tutor. Expert Interview. 29 May 2020.
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About This Article

Daron Cam

To solve a math problem, try rewriting the problem in your own words so it's easier to solve. You can also make a drawing of the problem to help you figure out what it's asking you to do. If you're still completely stuck, try solving a different problem that's similar but easier and then use the same steps to solve the harder problem. Even if you can't figure out how to solve it, try to make an educated guess instead of leaving the question blank. To learn how to come up with a solid plan to use to help you solve a math problem, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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4 steps to solve even the toughest math problem and improve your math skills, mathematics is a field where one can take multiple approaches to get to the solution of a problem. this simplified step-by-step approach will help you unravel the solution to even the toughest math problem..

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4 steps to solve even the toughest math problem and improve your math skills

There are multiple ways to solve math problems; however, a simplified method that can help everyone to solve even the toughest problem is a three-step process.

The process is:

1. Visualize the problem 2. Approach to be followed for that problem 3. Lastly, solve the problem

This three-step process could probably help you to improve your overall math skills.

1. Read carefully, understand, and identify the type of problem

maths problem solving step by step

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A Guide to Problem Solving

Age 16 to 18.

When confronted with a problem, in which the solution is not clear, you need to be a skilled problem-solver to know how to proceed. When you look at STEP problems for the first time, it may seem like this problem-solving skill is out of your reach, but like any skill, you can improve your problem-solving with practice. How do I become a better problem-solver? First and foremost, the best way to become better at problem-solving is to try solving lots of problems! If you are preparing for STEP, it makes sense that some of these problems should be STEP questions, but to start off with it's worth spending time looking at problems from other sources. This collection of NRICH problems  is designed for younger students, but it's very worthwhile having a go at a few to practise the problem-solving technique in a context where the mathematics should be straightforward to you. Then as you become a more confident problem-solver you can try more past STEP questions. One student who worked with NRICH said: "From personal experience, I was disastrous at STEP to start with. Yet as I persisted with it for a long time it eventually started to click - 'it' referring to being able to solve problems much more easily. This happens because your brain starts to recognise that problems fall into various categories and you subconsciously remember successes and pitfalls of previous 'similar' problems." A Problem-solving Heuristic for STEP Below you will find some questions you can ask yourself while you are solving a problem. The questions are divided into four phases, based loosely on those found in George Pólya's 1945 book "How to Solve It". Understanding the problem

  • What area of mathematics is this?
  • What exactly am I being asked to do?
  • What do I know?
  • What do I need to find out?
  • What am I uncertain about?
  • Can I put the problem into my own words?

Devising a plan

  • Work out the first few steps before leaping in!
  • Have I seen something like it before?
  • Is there a diagram I could draw to help?
  • Is there another way of representing?
  • Would it be useful to try some suitable numbers first?
  • Is there some notation that will help?

Carrying out the plan STUCK!

  • Try special cases or a simpler problem
  • Work backwards
  • Guess and check
  • Be systematic
  • Work towards subgoals
  • Imagine your way through the problem
  • Has the plan failed? Know when it's time to abandon the plan and move on.

Looking back

  • Have I answered the question?
  • Sanity check for sense and consistency
  • Check the problem has been fully solved
  • Read through the solution and check the flow of the logic.

Throughout the problem solving process it's important to keep an eye on how you're feeling and making sure you're in control:

  • Am I getting stressed?
  • Is my plan working?
  • Am I spending too long on this?
  • Could I move on to something else and come back to this later?
  • Am I focussing on the problem?
  • Is my work becoming chaotic, do I need to slow down, go back and tidy up?
  • Do I need to STOP, PEN DOWN, THINK?

Finally, don't forget that STEP questions are designed to take at least 30-45 minutes to solve, and to start with they will take you longer than that. As a last resort, read the solution, but not until you have spent a long time just thinking about the problem, making notes, trying things out and looking at resources that can help you. If you do end up reading the solution, then come back to the same problem a few days or weeks later to have another go at it.

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