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This module is from Elementary Algebra by Denny Burzynski and Wade Ellis, Jr. In this chapter, the emphasis is on the mechanics of equation solving, which clearly explains how to isolate a variable. The goal is to help the student feel more comfortable with solving applied problems. Ample opportunity is provided for the student to practice translating words to symbols, which is an important part of the "Five-Step Method" of solving applied problems (discussed in modules (<link document="m21980"/>) and (<link document="m21979"/>)). Objectives of this module: be able to solve various applied problems.


  • Solving Applied Problems

Solving applied problems

Let’s study some interesting problems that involve linear equations in one variable. In order to solve such problems, we apply the following five-step method:

Five-step method for solving word problems

  1. Let x (or some other letter) represent the unknown quantity.
  2. Translate the words to mathematical symbols and form an equation.
  3. Solve this equation.
  4. Ask yourself "Does this result seem reasonable?" Check the solution by substituting the result into the original statement of the problem.

    If the answer doesn’t check, you have either solved the equation incorrectly, or you have developed the wrong equation. Check your method of solution first. If the result does not check, reconsider your equation.

  5. Write the conclusion.

If it has been your experience that word problems are difficult, then follow the five-step method carefully. Most people have difficulty because they neglect step 1.


Keep in mind what the variable is representing throughout the problem.

Sample set a

This year an item costs $ 44 , an increase of $ 3 over last year’s price. What was last year’s price?

Step 1 : Let x = last year's price . Step 2 : x + 3 = 44. x + 3 represents the $3 increase in price . Step 3 : x + 3 = 44 x + 3 3 = 44 3 x = 41 Step 4 : 41 + 3 = 44 Yes, this is correct . Step 5 : Last year's price was $ 41.

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Practice set a

This year an item costs $ 23 , an increase of $ 4 over last year’s price. What was last year’s price?

  1. Let x =
  2. Last year's price was .

Last year's price was $ 19

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Sample set b

The perimeter (length around) of a square is 60 cm (centimeters). Find the length of a side.

Step 1: Let x = length of a side . Step 2: We can draw a picture .

A square with side of length x and an equation x plus x plus x plus x equals sixty next to the square.

Step 3 : x + x + x + x = 60 4 x = 60 Divide both sides by 4. x = 15. Step 4 : 4 ( 15 ) = 60. Yes, this is correct . Step 5 : The length of a side is 15 cm .

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Practice set b

The perimeter of a triangle is 54 inches. If each side has the same length, find the length of a side.

  1. Let x =
  2. The length of a side is inches.

The length of a side is 18 inches.

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Sample set c

Six percent of a number is 54. What is the number?

Step 1 : Let x = the number Step 2 : We must convert 6 % to a decimal.
6 % = .06 .06 x = 54 .06 x occurs because we want 6 % of x . Step 3 : .06 x = 54. Divide both sides by .06. x = 54 .06 x = 900 Step 4 : .06 ( 900 ) = 54. Yes, this is correct . Step 5 : The number is 900.

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Practice set c

Eight percent of a number is 36. What is the number?

  1. Let x =
  2. The number is .

The number is 450.

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Sample set d

An astronomer notices that one star gives off about 3.6 times as much energy as another star. Together the stars give off 55.844 units of energy. How many units of energy does each star emit?

  1. In this problem we have two unknowns and, therefore, we might think, two variables. However, notice that the energy given off by one star is given in terms of the other star. So, rather than introducing two variables, we introduce only one. The other unknown(s) is expressed in terms of this one. (We might call this quantity the base quantity.)

    Let x = number of units of energy given off by the less energetic star. Then, 3.6 x = number of units of energy given off by the more energetic star.

    Step 2: x + 3.6 x = 55.844. Step 3: x + 3.6 x = 55.844 4.6 x = 55.844 Divide both sides by 4 .6 . A calculator would be useful at this point . x = 55.844 4.6 x = 12.14 The wording of the problem implies t w o numbers are needed = for a complete solution . We need the number of units of energy for the other star. 3.6 x = 3.6 ( 12.14 ) = 43.704 Step 4: 12.14 + 43.704 = 55.844. Yes, this is correct . Step 5 : One star gives off 12.14 units of energy and the other star gives off 43.704 units of energy .

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Questions & Answers

are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
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Source:  OpenStax, Elementary algebra. OpenStax CNX. May 08, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10614/1.3
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