Brian is struggling to write an equation for a word problem. What are some tips that you can give him? Give at least two tips.

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Look for numbers in the words.

Look for operations in the words: such as, product (multiplication), quotient (division), sum (addition), difference (subtraction). These words tell you what to do with numbers.

Look for words that mean multiply by a defined number: twice means two times; double means two times; half means divide by 2.

Look for the word ”what” or “which“: these often tell you what you have to find, so they may represent an unknown algebraic quantity. 

The words “is” or “are” may mean “equals”. Look out for similar words: “make”, etc.

Read through the whole sentence and try to work out the order of the operations you may need to carry out on the numbers.

Watch out for groupings where some operations are described by a group of words in a sentence, so these may indicate parenthesised operations.

Stand back and try to capture a picture of what the words are telling you, and read the problem several times to get a feel for the problem.

And don’t panic—you can do it!

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