*The name of the game here is to slow down and take a minute to think about your result. If you plugged in numbers and got a negative number, ask yourself if you expected to get a negative number.*

The good news is that doing so is usually easier because you already have a solution to build upon.

And those are all of the steps you should go through when solving real world math problems.

But (perhaps being a little too clever for your own good) instead of constantly checking this spot, you decide that you'd like to rig up an ingenious system to automatically report to you exactly how many toys are missing.

The biggest mistake people make when solving problems is trying to solve them too soon.

The difference between these two weights must be equal to the combined weight of all the dog toys, W_toys: But we don’t actually want to know the weight of the toys, we want to know the number of toys. Well, if we know the total weight of all the toys, W_toys, and we divide that by the weight of a single toy, W_toy (assuming they're all the same weight), we get the total number of toys, Ntoys: But how did we know the values of W_towels and W_toy?

We must have been clever enough to measure them and write them down before we put the towels on our scale. The third step in solving our word problem—or any word problem—is to solve for the variable you’re interested in.

The most important thing to do when faced with a problem like this is to stop working on it.

Honestly, it sounds paradoxical, but the biggest mistake people make when solving problems is trying to solve them too soon. Make sure you understand exactly what the question is asking and make sure you understand exactly what you are trying to solve for.

Good luck in all your future problem solving endeavors!

Okay, that's all the math we have time for today. And remember to become a fan of the Math Dude on Facebook where you’ll find lots of great math posted throughout the week. Until next time, this is Jason Marshall with The Math Dude’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Make Math Easier.

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