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Math Help - I'm having serious trouble parsing out the text of word problems into math symbols

  1. #1
    Owl
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    I'm having serious trouble parsing out the text of word problems into math symbols

    As the title suggests, I seem to have a lot of trouble turning the text of word problems into math symbols and solving them. Here's an example of what I mean:

    "The combined age of a mother and her twin daughters is 58 years. The mother was 25 years old when the twins were born. Write and solve an equation to find the age of each of the three people"

    So first off, I can translate the first line into X+2Y=58. I got 2Y from the fact that the daughters were twins and were born at around the same time.

    Now the second part is where I get confused. I think this is type of systems of equation, although I could be wrong. So when the mother was 25 years old, the twins were just born, so I'm going to assume they were 1 year old each, although I'm not sure if that'll be of much use in solving this problem.

    In any case, that's the problem I'm having with word problems. Practice with them helps, but only for those specific types of word problems. When I encounter a new one that's worded differently, I run into the same mental roadblock. For example: The Khan Academy has a great section on age word problems and I can do them well, but only after struggling with them for a very, very long time. I get lost in the text and become unable to translate them into math symbols.

    So what I'm asking is not the solution to the question I posted above, but how I go about solving those types of questions, especially the part where you translate the text into math. This seems to be one of the greatest problems I have with math.

    Thanks.
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    First off, the twins would be aged 0 years when they are born... So that means the mother's age now would be \displaystyle X = 25 + Y, since as many years have gone by as the age of one of her daughters. Can you see where to go from here?
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  3. #3
    Owl
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prove It View Post
    First off, the twins would be aged 0 years when they are born...

    Given how short you responded, I'm a bit afraid to ask, since this might be a common sense thing, but why is that? I thought we are all aged 1 when born. Or does math give them a value of 0? Or am I complete wrong on the age one thing?

    EDIT: Okay, I see you posted some more
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    Quote Originally Posted by Owl View Post
    Given how short you responded, I'm a bit afraid to ask, since this might be a common sense thing, but why is that? I thought we are all aged 1 when born. Or does math give them a value of 0? Or am I complete wrong on the age one thing?

    EDIT: Okay, I see you posted some more
    See my edit. And no, you are not aged one year when you are born. You only become one year old after you have been alive for a year...
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  5. #5
    Owl
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    Okay, so since it's X=25+y.

    Here's what I think goes next:

    X+2y=58
    -X+y=25

    3y=33
    y=11

    X+22=58
    58-22=36
    X=36

    So the mother is 36 and the twins are 11 each.
    Is this correct?
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    Yes, correct. Well done.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Owl View Post
    So the mother is 36 and the twins are 11 each.
    Is this correct?
    Yes; good work!
    You can check yourself if correct:
    36 + 22 = 56
    36 - 11 = 25
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    Owl
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    That's all well and good, but like I said, the example isn't so much what I'm worried about (I hope this doesn't come across as rude). I know the abstract stuff, like systems of equations, hyperbolas, etc well, but when you put them in a word problem, the text impedes me from getting to the answer. I guess to use an example, here's a paraphrased version of Plato:

    "Meno: You have the virtue of a man, a woman, a slave...

    Socrates: But what is the common character of virtue?"

    What I mean is, I am now able to do this problem, but I want to know how to be able to parse out ANY word problem. I'll come across another problem like this and I'll be stuck, because I can't translate the text into math. That is what I was asking.

    I hope I didn't come across as ungrateful for the help received, as I am really glad you guys helped with that problem. I hope I explained my self clearly, since that's what I want help in.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Owl View Post
    That's all well and good, but like I said, the example isn't so much what I'm worried about (I hope this doesn't come across as rude). I know the abstract stuff, like systems of equations, hyperbolas, etc well, but when you put them in a word problem, the text impedes me from getting to the answer. I guess to use an example, here's a paraphrased version of Plato:

    "Meno: You have the virtue of a man, a woman, a slave...

    Socrates: But what is the common character of virtue?"

    What I mean is, I am now able to do this problem, but I want to know how to be able to parse out ANY word problem. I'll come across another problem like this and I'll be stuck, because I can't translate the text into math. That is what I was asking.

    I hope I didn't come across as ungrateful for the help received, as I am really glad you guys helped with that problem. I hope I explained my self clearly, since that's what I want help in.
    Unfortunately the only thing that will help you to translate word problems into algebra is experience. I suggest striving to and understand do as many word problems as possible.
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    Owl
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    That gives me hope, as it seems my problem isn't as serious as I had feared if the only thing I need to do to overcome it is have patience and keep working them out, as I am sure I will do. Because I have sometimes spent upwards to an hour on more on these problems, I thought that perhaps there was something I was missing out on.

    Thanks again for your help.
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