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Article Summary: "It is recommended that you write this outline on a sheet of paper that you can follow every time you work on math problem solving. The goal of using a math outline to solve problems is to provide you with an organized strategy for solving any type of math problem."

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Solve Math Problems by Using an Outline: Plan of Action

Are you are having difficulties solving math problems? One alternative could be the use of an outline to help you plan your approach to solving the problem. A problem solving outline provides a strategy for solving even the most difficult problems. Once you have mastered this problem solving technique, math problems will be breeze to solve.

Let's take a look at a problem solving outline or plan. The first thing that you need to do is identify all the needed information in the problem. You can do this by looking for clues:

  • Read the problem carefully
  • Underline important words that provide clues to solving the problem (difference, sum, product, perimeter, etc.)
  • What important facts are provided (divided equally, 14 of one type and 12 of another, etc.)
  • What do you need to find out (how many will each have, the total will be, everyone gets a red, yellow, and orange, etc.)
  • You may want to turn the specific words into mathematical symbols (difference is a"-," product is an "x," etc.)
  • Identify any information that is no relevant to the problem

Other clues will help you when reading the problem. Addition uses clues like sum, total, in all, and perimeter. Subtraction uses clue words like difference, how much more, and exceed. Multiplication uses clue words like product, total, area, and times. Finally division uses clue words like share, distribute, quotient, and average.

Once you have done this, develop a strategy or plan how to solve the problem. This can be accomplished by:

  • Drawing a model, table, diagram, Venn diagram, chart, sketches, etc.
  • You may need to make a physical model of the problem using math manipulatives, such as base ten blocks, colored cubes, geometric shapes, geoboards, etc.
  • Look for any patterns in the information to help sort he information
  • If necessary, act out the problem with others to help you make sense of what is being asked
  • See if you can make a connect to other subject areas, such as science, art, music, tech ed, etc.

Another option that you can use in this problem solving outline is rewrite the problem to help identify key terms, information, and words that will help you understand what is being asked in the problem. In addition if you can rewrite it and still have the same meaning, then you have a better understanding of the problem.

After you have completed your outline for the problem, then carry out the plan you developed to solve the problem. After you have solved the problem, carry out the next steps:

  • Does the answer make sense with what is being asked in the problem
  • If it does not then you guess and check the answer to see if it makes sense now
  • If you are still coming up with an unreasonable number, work the problem backwards using the answer you calculated

All of these strategies will work when solving math problems using an outline. This plan of action will help identify everything needed to solve the problem.

It is recommended that you write this outline on a sheet of paper that you can follow every time you work on math problem solving. The goal of using a math outline to solve problems is to provide you with an organized strategy for solving any type of math problem. It will also provide you with an outline for solving life's problems. The more you use this outline the less that you will actually have to follow the actual written outline. It will just become second nature.