# Algebra Tips

Tips to help you make it through algebra and solve word problems.

## Common mistakes

I have been tutoring math and science since 1995, and have seen many of the same mistakes repeated over and over. Following these tips should help save you time and improve your grade.

1. Don't lose minus signs.
This is the most common mistake of all. Be extra careful when you see negative values or subtraction in an equation.

2. Be sure to do the same thing on both sides of the equation.
Look at an equal sign as a balance scale. Both sides of the equation (scale) must balance out. Any time you add, subtract, multipy or divide one side of an equation, you must perform the same operation to the other side.

3. Adding or subtracting fractions.
When adding or subtracting fractions, you must have a common denominator. Once you have a common denominator, add (or subtract) the numerators and keep the same denominator.

4. Multiplying fractions.
When multiplying fractions, there is no need for a common denominator. Simply multiply straight across, numerator times numerator, denominator times denominator.

5. Dividing fractions.
This usually involves compound fractions. Follow this formula:
(A/B)/(C/D) = (A/B)(D/C), or in words: (A/B) times (D/C).

## Word problems

1.Break the problem into parts. Each sentence is usually a different part.

2. Ask yourself 'What is the problem asking for?' This is usually the variable you are solving for.

3. Write down the given information, one piece at a time.

4. Look for key words such as 'the sum of' (addition), 'the difference between' or 'is less than' (subtraction), 'the product of' (multiplication), 'is equal to' (and equal sign goes here).

5. Ratios can be written as fractions.

One last bit of advice: If you are stuck, do SOMETHING. Even if you start by doing the wrong thing, it will give you a different perspective on the problem, and this can often lead the way to the actual solution.
Don't get frustrated. If math was easy, everyone could do it.

### Meet the author weatherguyal
I have a B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Arizona. I enjoy gardening and hiking.