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Math Help - Word Problem Disaster

  1. #1
    Senior Member nycmath's Avatar
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    Word Problem Disaster

    If I can learn to reason out a word problem when taking a standardized exam, it is a treasure worth more than gold. In 2006, I applied to work as financial advisor for Bank One. I wanted to change careers.

    I was given a test covering mostly word problems far easier than precalculus or algebra 1 and 2. I failed the test miserably. It was a rude awakening and total embarrassment for me having two degrees from two CUNY colleges and I could not pass a rather simple word problem test of 20 questions. I walked away from the bank very depressed.

    As stated above, I wanted to change careers but realized that a decent job is not going to say solve 3x + 3 = 9 for x. They will expect applicants to reason out word problems and develop the needed equation leading to the right answer. Mastering this skill is more special than gold; it is a skill most people envy. What do you say?
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    Forum Admin topsquark's Avatar
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    Re: Word Problem Disaster

    Quote Originally Posted by nycmath View Post
    If I can learn to reason out a word problem when taking a standardized exam, it is a treasure worth more than gold. In 2006, I applied to work as financial advisor for Bank One. I wanted to change careers.

    I was given a test covering mostly word problems far easier than precalculus or algebra 1 and 2. I failed the test miserably. It was a rude awakening and total embarrassment for me having two degrees from two CUNY colleges and I could not pass a rather simple word problem test of 20 questions. I walked away from the bank very depressed.

    As stated above, I wanted to change careers but realized that a decent job is not going to say solve 3x + 3 = 9 for x. They will expect applicants to reason out word problems and develop the needed equation leading to the right answer. Mastering this skill is more special than gold; it is a skill most people envy. What do you say?
    What kinds of word problems were on the test? Were they of the format: "Jennifer is 10 years older than her sister who is..." ? Or were they different?

    -Dan
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    Senior Member nycmath's Avatar
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    Re: Word Problem Disaster

    Dan,

    I don't recall exactly but the questions were what is normally given to an 8th grade student. Easy stuff. I recall a few proportions, problems involving percentage, fraction, finding the average grade, a few about distance using D = rt, etc. I got stuck after the first couple of questions. I mostly had to guess my way through the test. No algebra word problems about age, coins, distance, levers, quadratic. All easy questions but I did not pass in 2006. I would most likely be able to pass today but I no longer have interest in pursuing such a career.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member nycmath's Avatar
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    Re: Word Problem Disaster

    Four Sample Financial Advisor Test

    (1) Billy has two investments totaling $9000. One investment 6% and the other 10%. If the interest was $630 total annual. How much was each is invested at each rate.

    (2) If I have a 72% average and took a 100 point test worth 40% of my grade, what do I need to score on the test to keep from having an F in the class?

    (3) A supermarket is selling tinned beans for 40c off this is discount is 8% how much did the beans originally cost ?

    (4)A car is marked up 30% from its wholesale price. During a sale, the retail price is reduced by 20%. What percent higher is the sale price than the wholesale price?

    My 2006 test had similar questions to the ones posted here. It was a timed test.
    Time puts pressure on me and leads to errors. My mind freezes when there is time to work with. How can I overcome this fear? Would you suggest taking standardized exams on my own for practice?
    Last edited by nycmath; November 16th 2013 at 05:01 AM.
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    Re: Word Problem Disaster

    Problem 1 cannot be answered unless you know how the interest is compounded. Problem 2 cannot be answered unless you know the cutoff for a passing grade. If half the questions do not give enough information, I would have trouble with the test, as well, and I tend to do very well on standardized tests.

    In general, yes, practicing helps. On the other hand, even if you succeed on the test, a job like that will be a constant "timed exam" where every customer will be looking for you to have the correct answers immediately. If that thought doesn't frighten you, then it may be purely psychological. You may just have a phobia about timed exams. It is a fairly common phobia, and practicing timed tests on your own may not alleviate any of the stress you would feel when in a proctored environment.
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    Senior Member nycmath's Avatar
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    Re: Word Problem Disaster

    If that is the case, there is no way out of the exam fear arena. The truth is, some people are not good test takers. There are people who never attend college and can easily pass a standardized exam leading to employment and vice-versa.

    In my case, I have two college degrees from two CUNY schools but I do not trust my skills. Ignorant people think that having a college degree automatically means an easy ticket into a decent-paying job.

    My test problems, however, extend beyond math. I have the same problem in terms of reading comprehension exams. Under time pressure, I freeze and have such a difficult time finding the main idea.

    The toughest questions are inference questions. The SAT and GRE reading and math exams are far from easy. What are your thoughts about the SAT and GRE reading and math exams?
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    Re: Word Problem Disaster

    Psychology is by no means an area of expertise for me. I got a C+ in my one introductory psychology class that I took a decade and a half ago. So, feel free to take any advice I give with a grain of salt. My philosophy towards fear is that I can most easily overcome it by facing it. To overcome my fear of heights, I went skydiving a couple times. I am still afraid of heights, but it no longer prevents me from doing something I want or need to do. Perhaps something similar can work for you. Have you considered going to temp agencies and asking to take their timed exams? Another possibility is to find an adult education center and take a course that teaches techniques to taking timed exams (from what I have heard, some of these courses really do help).

    Anyway, when I took the SAT's the first time, I remember getting so bored that about half-way through, I filled in the rest of the bubbles randomly. As a result, I did very well on half the exam but wound up with an average score overall. When I took it again, I did very well on the whole exam. So, I think that those who score very high and those who score very low, those exams do, indeed, demonstrate individual ability. But, among the scores in between, I think the scores are far less informative. Someone with a low (but not very low) score may have trouble taking tests, and may be quite capable in any other environment. Someone with a decent, but not very high score may be quite adept at taking standardized tests, but not really know the material.
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    Senior Member nycmath's Avatar
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    Re: Word Problem Disaster

    I will post some word problems in the next two weeks with my effort on display. I will show my reasoning step by step and indicate where I get stuck. Mastering this skill is a personal dream.
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