WHEN EVERYTHING ELSE FAILS |

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A Student's Guide to Problem Solving

When it comes to "doing story problems" for their math homework, most people would rather be "doing something else". So this page of theWorld of TROTTER MATHwill provide you with a great service, namely some tips and shortcuts for doing this most unpleasant task. Follow the rules given below and watch your grades improve. tt

Rule 1: If at all possible, avoid reading the problem. Reading the problem consumes time and causes confusion.

Rule 2: Extract the numbers from the problem in the order in which they appear. Be on the watch for numbers written as words.

Rule 3: If Rule 2 yields three or more numbers, the best bet for getting the answer is adding them together.

Rule 4: If there are only two numbers which are approximately the same size, then subtraction should give the needed results.

Rule 5: If there are only two numbers in the problem and one is much smaller than the other, then divide if it goes evenly --- otherwise, multiply.

Rule 6: If the problem seems like it calls for a formula, pick a formula that has enough letters to use all the numbers given in the problem.

Rule 7: If the rules 1-6 don't seem to work, make one last desperate attempt. Take the set of numbers found by Rule 2 and perform about two pages of random operations using these numbers. You should circle about five or six answers on each page just in case one of them happens to be the answer. You might get partial credit for trying hard.

Rule 8: Never, never spend too much time solving problems. This set of rules will get you through even the longest assignments in no more than ten minutes with very little thinking!

[These "rules" were written by Joe Dodson, a Math Supervisor, and published in the NORTH CAROLINA STATE MATH NEWSLETTER; later I found them reprinted in another state's journal.]

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