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Technical Math For Dummies® by Barry Schoenborn, Bradley Simkins

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Chapter 7. Slaying the Story Problem Dragon

In This Chapter

  • Seeing what story problems are and why they exist

  • Finding the keywords in story problems

  • Using shortcuts to solve story problems

You encounter story problems every day. They appear in two major places: math tests and your work. You can avoid story problems in math tests by completing all the math classes you need for an education in your career, but you can't avoid story problems that arise in your everyday work.

Very few problems come with a formula attached; instead, they come with words attached. For example, if you have a recipe for one pie and want to enough pies to serve 100 people, it's up to you to calculate the number of servings in one pie to, figure out the number of pies you need and then convert the recipe into the right amounts of ingredients. It doesn't matter whether you're the boss or just the apprentice baker — the problem will lie there until you solve it.

Story problems are disconcerting to people, making them break out in a cold sweat, make groaning noises, and sometimes curl up into a ball. We researched this effect, and we find almost 100-percent agreement. People seem to fear and loathe story problems.

In the past, you may have heard story problems called word problems or life problems, and the reaction was worse. Don't hyperventilate. Story problems are "real-life" problems, and they aren't hard to solve. You can slay the biggest fire-breathing story problem dragon if you have a big enough fire extinguisher ...

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