Another way to look at WORD problems

A few years ago, I began to teach a noncredit science class at a local community college. One of the lessons was how to solve word problems. This is what the material gave us to teach the students.

1.Read questions carefully
2.Define terms, think about relationships
3.Identify key or clue words
4.Identify the problem to be answered
5.Analyze the problem
6.Plan a solution
7.Answer the question
8.Evaluate the solution

Over time I began to realize that this was too much info to give, so I began looking for better ways to explain the process. I finally stumbled on an acronym that was simple and yet explain the steps in a concise way.

The acronym was WORD which stood for:

W- What does the question give you and does it want for answer (covers points 1, 3, 4)

O- Organize the information. Most science questions have a distinct order to them that can either be organized or diagrammed to assist in ‘seeing the problem’ (covers points 2, 5, 6)

R- Reply with an answer (point 7)

D- Does it make sense? Does it fit the pattern seen in the question? (point 8)


So how do solve a word problem? Use the WORD!



I like the acronym but for O why not ask the student to rewrite in a simpler sentence what the question is asking for in there words. For instance if I gave you a question that said "A rancher is trying to set up a fence along his property to keep his cattle on his property but want to keep a large area for the smallest rectangular fencing possible given the perimeter is 110yd. 
so i botched the question but a rewrite could be
maximize the area of a 110yd perimeter rectangle.


Jeff S.

Experienced Science Teacher, Tutor and ESL instructor

400+ hours
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