Problem Solving Procedure
when solving word problems

  1. Make a Data Table
    • After reading the question carefully, write down the given information and label what type of measurement (Mass, Temp, Volume) it is. Also include the type of measurement that the problem is asking you to find.
  2. Write Down any Relevant Formulas
    • Look at the type of measurements in your data table and write down formulas that have those measurement types in them. Your formulas written should not contain numbers (except in a few cases).
  3. Rearrange the Formula (if necessary)
    • Solve the formula to get the variable in question by itself.  In some cases, the formula will aready be arranged the way you want it and no rearranging will be necessary.
  4. Plug Values into the Formulas
    • Underneath formula, rewrite equation by inserting the values from your data table (inlcludes numerical piece AND unit)
  5. Calculate the Units
    • Perform dimensional analysis to see if your units simplify to the right type of measuremtn
  6. Calculate the Numbers
  7. Round Answer to Proper Sig Figs
    • Question: A 434 cm3 cylindrical object has a radius of  5.3cm , how tall is  the object?

      V = 434 cm3
      r = 5.3 cm
      h = ?
      Step 1:
      Make a Data Table - notice that each is labeled as Volume, radius, height.  Also note that since the question is asking about the height, that is labeled with a "?".
      V = πr2h
      Step 2:
      The formula for the volume of a cylinder has V, r, and h, in it, so we write it down.
      h = V / πr2
      Step 3:  
      Since the problem asks for the height, but our original formula is solved for volume, we need to rearrange it to get height by itself.
      h = 434 cm3 / π(5.3cm)2
      Step 4:  
      We now re-write the formula with the values plugged in.
      cm3 / cm2 = cm
      Step 5:  
      We calculate (simplify) the units in our formula.  Since we are solving for height, we need to make sure units simplify to a valid unit of length.  In this case, we get "cm", so we have a valid formula and values.
      434 / (5.3)2 = 15.450338 cm
      Step 6:
      Calculate the numerical portion of the formula. Your answer should be in decimal form.  (This is an intermediate step and does not have to be written down)
      h = 15 cm
      Step 7:
      Round your answer to proper sig figs. Notice how the answer is labeled.  (h = ...)