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Lesson 17: Word Problems Involving Division
In this lesson you'll learn how to identity word problems that require division, and you'll learn how to solve them.
Don't forget to watch the embedded video clip for this lesson at the bottom of the page. Please be sure to read the embedded video information and disclaimer.
Here is a typical word problem involving division: Mike has 20 apples. He wants to share them equally between himself, and three friends. How many apples does each person get?
In this problem, the keywords are "share," and also "equally." This tells us that we'll be dividing. First, though, we have to figure out how many people we're dividing the apples among. It says that Mike wants to share them between himself and three friends. So first we have to add to see that there are 4 people involved. Now we can rewrite the problem as 20 ÷ 4, and divide to get 5.
Always look carefully to see if there are any other keywords in the problem. If there are, it's possible that you will have to first do some other operation, such as addition. These problems sometimes have a multiple choice answer that tries to trick you if you weren't careful to find all of the keywords in the problem, and if you just assumed that you were dividing. Always read the problem slowly and carefully.
When you divide, the answer that you get is called the quotient. If a word problem ever asks you find the quotient of two numbers, they are just testing to see if you know that you are supposed to divide. Certainly if a problem says that there are a number of items divided by another number of items, it means that you should divide them.
Sometimes there is no obvious keyword that tells you to divide. In these cases, just look for any clue that tells that you that problem is about repeatedly subtracting a number. That will tell you that you need to divide. Also look for clues that imply that you are breaking up a quantity into equal groups.
Always read a word problem carefully and slowly, determine what operation you are being asked to do, and then convert the problem into standard notation.