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How To Solve Math Word Problems

Updated on April 11, 2016
Diane Lockridge profile image

Lockridge homeschools her children and holds an EdS in Curriculum and Instruction, an MS in Elementary Education, and a BA in History.

What are Word Problems?

A "word problems" is a mathematical expression written in word format. In other words, it's a way of saying a math problem that gives real-life examples, or a problem in written form instead of just using numbers.

Although some people start to break out into hives at the mere mention of a word problem, there is a simple, proven method to helping break down the steps. However, one of the best things a student can do is practice word problems. The more often a student practices word problems, the more comfortable he will become with the steps.

WHISK Method

Solving word problems is as simple as a five step process, best-known by the acronym WHISK.






WHAT is the problem really asking you to solve? Make sure you read through the problem several times so you are sure you know exactly what you are reading. Identify important information and underline it so the info stands out. Don't just assume you know what the problem is asking, re-read the question and then determine what you should do next.

HOW should you solve the information? Should you use addition, subtraction, multiplication, division or something else? Use the key words you previously underlined to help you determine the answer.

ILLUSTRATE what you can by drawing a chart, table, picture or other representation. Sometimes visuals help you see the correct answer.

SOLVE the problem using the computation with the information you’ve already gathered.

KEY – Check your answer with two keys- common sense and computation. Do the opposite of the computation when possible.


Cengage Learning- Skill Builder Library “Solving Word Problems with WHISK”


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    • Diane Lockridge profile image

      Diane Lockridge 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Good comments, Farmvillefcu, but these steps are listed in the article, just not in that exact phrasology.

    • farmvillefcu profile image

      farmvillefcu 6 years ago

      Solving worded problems are made possible with the given steps by Diane, however, I have also simple steps to take into considerations;

      1. Take time to read and understand the problem

      Have an overview of what the problem is all about.

      2. Gather all important information or data.

      Collate all important data for consideration.

      3. Decide which strategy to employ in solving the problem.

      For a specific problem, there is a corresponding strategies to be used. Select the best strategy to yield a good result

      4. Start Solving the Problem

      With the given data and strategies, you can now solve the problems by using formulas or anything

      \5. Validate the answer

      You have to find out if the answer is correct by the process of validation or checking the answer.