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Algebra&Word Problems Tutorial

Algebra&Word Problems Tutorial

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05/09/2014

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Algebra & w ord problems tutorial
Algebra is a common question topic in the GRE and if you include word problems
which are really just algebra problems in disguise then even more of GRE

quantitative questions are algebra problems. For many of these word problems the most difficult part of the question is understanding exactly what they are telling you and what you need to find out.

This tutorial will assume that you have already worked through our 'Fractions' and

'Exponents, ratios and percents' tutorials. It will also assume that you a fair knowledge of algebra. For example you should be able to solve the following equation to finda.

2a + 3=11
a= ?
solution at the bottom of this page

Solve this problem by finding the value fora. This tutorial will begin by giving you
two methods for making sense of and solving word problems. Then we will revise the
solution of quadratic equations and finally look at substitution techniques which will
help when you do not know how to find the solution to a question.

Solution: a= 4
Word problems w ith equations
We will begin with an example of a word problem and then look at how to use
equations to solve it .

Carl has twice as much money invested in stocks as in bonds. Stocks earn 10% interest per year and bonds 5% per year. If Carl earned a total of $800 dollars from his stocks and bonds last year how much money did he have invested in stocks?

A

$9,600 B $8,000 C$6,400 D $4,000 E$3,200

If you feel brave you can have a go at it now. My advice would be to follow these
guidelines.
\u2022
Sum m arize: Write equations, which contain the information given to you in
the question.
o
Use sensible variable names for example the first letter of the thing
that the variable represents.
o
Identify answer i.e. write down exactly what you are looking for.
\u2022
Solve: find the solution for the equstions you have written down.
If you have had a go at the question then check your answer. If not then we will
answer the question together.
Summarize using equations

In the question you are given a great deal of information and you need to be able to
summarize it in a more manageable form. Often it is a good idea to translate the
question into equations. It is important to use variable names that will make sense
to you when you are translating these questions into equations.

'Carl has twice as much money invested in stocks as in bonds. Stocks earn 10%
interest per year and bonds 5% per year. If Carl earned a total of $800 dollars from
his stocks and bonds last year how much money did he have invested in stocks?'

We will use 'S' to represent stocks and 'B' to represent bonds. Using the first letters
of each word makes it easy to remember which is which and avoids any confusion
that might arise from using more traditional variable names such as 'x' and 'y'.
'Carl has twice as much money invested in stocks as in bonds.'
Translates to:
S = 2B
Note: many people get confused with the phrase 'twice as much' and write 2S = B.
This is a very common mistake andm u s t be avoided. If you find that you get

confused writing the equation try replacing the variables with numbers and then read the sentence again to see if it makes sense. For example in this case if S = 2B, then if B = 1, S = 2. This makes sense because stocks are '2' which is twice as much as bonds which are '1'.

'Stocks earn 10% interest per year and bonds 5% per year. If Carl earned a total of
$800 dollars from his stocks and bonds last year...'
Stocks earned 10% of S and bonds earned 5% of B and this totaled $800 so,
( 10% \u00d7 S ) + ( 5% \u00d7 B ) = 800
It is also important to write down what you are trying to find. It is all to easy to do
the correct working and get to a related or intermediate answer which you find in the
list of answers A-E and to choose it in your haste to finish the question.
'...how much money did he have invested in stocks?'
You are trying to find the amount in stocks so write down
S= ?
To summarize we have:
S = 2B
( 10% \u00d7 S ) + ( 5% \u00d7 B ) = 800
S= ?
Two equations with two unknowns so we can solve them.
Solving equations
We have already done much of the work in solving this problem by changing it from
the word problem

'Carl has twice as much money invested in stocks as in bonds. Stocks earn 10%
interest per year and bonds 5% per year. If Carl earned a total of $800 dollars from
his stocks and bonds last year how much money did he have invested in stocks?'

to the algebraic problem
S = 2B
( 10% \u00d7 S ) + ( 5% \u00d7 B ) = 800< /FONT< < td>
S= ?

To solve the system of equations you want to reduce the problem from two variables in two equations to one variable in one equation. Usually the easiest way to do this is by substitution i.e. replacing one of the variables by the other.

( 10% \u00d7 S ) + ( 5% \u00d7 B ) = 800
We know that S = 2B so we can replace
the S in the second equation with 2B.
( 10% \u00d7 2B ) + ( 5% \u00d7 B ) = 800
multiply out 10% \u00d7 2B
( 20% \u00d7 B ) + ( 5% \u00d7 B ) = 800
20% of B and 5% of B are 25% of B
25% \u00d7 B = 800
We know that 25% =, (seef r a ct i o n s)
\u00d7 B
= 800
Multiply both sides by 4
B = 800 \u00d7 4
B = 3200

Careful at this point not to assume that you have finished. You have found the
amount of money invested in bonds, no you need to use the equation S = 2B and
calculate the amount invested in stocks.

S = 2B
S = 2 \u00d7 3200
S = 6400

Returning to the question.

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