Simplifying a Problem

Simplifying a problem often involves looking for the meaningful information, and eliminating information that doesn' apply to the problem.

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Approach to Simplifying and Solving Problems

Read the problem more than once. Read the problem carefully to decide the order in which to solve the problem. Look and underline the key words that would help in making the problem simple. Some key words, along with operations to be carried out, are given below:

  • Add - combine together, join
  • Subtract - remove, leave out
  • Division - divide / distribute equally, how many groups, how many are in each group, etc.
  • Multiplication - cost of many, given cost of one

Further break the question into small simple problems. Then solve them.


Anna has 3 pizzas. Henry and Anna have 5 pizzas together; John and Henry have 6 pizzas in all. How many pizzas do each one of them have?


Anna has 3 pizzas.
Henry and Anna have 5 pizzas together
That is,  pizzas with Anna + pizzas with Henry = 5
                                  3 + pizzas with Henry = 5
                                             Clearly, 3 + 2 = 5
Therefore, pizzas with Henry = 2

John and Henry have 6 pizzas together
That is, pizzas with Henry + pizzas with John = 6
                                  2 + pizzas with John = 6
                                            Clearly, 2 + 4 = 6
Therefore, pizzas with John = 4

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