Using Algebra to Solve Word Problems

On the GED math test you might need to translate a word problem into an algebraic equation in order to arrive at the correct answer. The first thing you should do, as always, is determine what the question is asking you. You then make that the variable of the equation, then solve for the variable.

Here’s an example question:

Neko and Ruth are both waitresses. Last night Ruth made twice as much as Neko and both girls together made $170. How much did Neko earn last night?

Here’s an example way to solve it:

Let n be what the question is asking, how much Neko earned. Since Ruth earned twice as much, the amount she earned will be 2n. The equation will look like this:

n + 2n = 170

Now you just need to solve for n.

Neko made $56.67

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  • antwon

    that was the first time i seen a word problem solve like that and it help a great deal considering thats my weak point in math thanks!!!!!

    • Ziyi

      No problem. Thanks for the comments! I’ll try to add more examples to the site.

  • Maurice

    How did you get 3.

    • Ziyi

      The 3n comes from adding n + 2n. Since we want to find what n is we need to get it on one side of the equation by itself. This means getting rid of the 3 next to the n. To get rid of a number next to a letter in algebra you divide by that number to both sides. So divide by three.

  • nicole saunders

    So the n is 1 always,or just in this problem?

    • erin r


    • Ziyi

      Here we find n to be 56.67. In a different problem the variable (n here) could end up being anything. We find out what it is when we solve the equation.

  • Deborah

    I am taking my GED and working word problems is the hardest for me besides some of the other problems. I am a slow learner can you tell me the easy and best way to do word problems cause I believe that is what’s on most of the test.
    Thank You

  • zoe

    thank you soooooooo much this website is so helpful. i am absolutly terrible with math and i always have been. i have never been able to understand math and i want to take the GED ASAP before december because its changing in january. the math part is the part i am terrified about. so thank you. im on this website all day everyday haha.

  • anna escobar

    I still don’t know how u got the 3 this is hard can u help

    • Ziyi

      The 3 comes from adding 2n plus 1n = 3n. To find n we need to get it by itself so we divide by 3.

    • Anonymous

      The 3 comes from 2n+n=3n. here is the problem they ask you for : They said Ruth made twice as much as Neko( that mean Ruth=2 time that Neko made .R=2N). And they said both Ruth and Neko made $170 (that mean Ruth +Neko =$170). Here you can get from the information on the top :
      R+N=$170 ,while R=2N.
      So we got 2N+N=$170
      2N+N=3N ,so 3N=170 ,so N=170/3 =$56.66666 or$ 56.67

  • jessica

    thank u so much this is the best ged study website I have found and I love it. I only have the math to pass and I hope with your help I will. thank u again.

  • CatreshaP.

    Oh want to say , I,ve found that the science section has physics included in the test, I,m not all that kean to physics,but more with earth science.Can you send me some strategies on it? Or are there sections in the math that can give me some insight ? Need assistance ASAP, 🙂 thanks

  • leticia

    I would like see, if some one can help me to solve this,
    +3/4 12 1/2
    – 53/8

    • CatreshaP.

      For the first problem 1/2+3/4=10/8 which converts to 0.8 or 1.25 , Note: you just have to know your conversions of the fractions to get your answers. Also I,m just going off of what you wrote in your comment,so still get a second opinion. Hope that I helped 🙂

    • Catresha

      Also working on the second one for you 🙂

    • CatreshaP.

      Ok this is what I have: 12 1/2- 53/8=12 98/16 or 6.125 ,again Note:not a fractions pro ,so get a second opinion on it. Also I do know that in this section of fractions you need to know:Subtracting Mixed Numbers & Regrouping Mixed Numbers.

    • CatreshaP.

      Hi leticia , I contacted Ziyi who’s a pro in this area. He,s gonna get back to me on it soon,& you should see the answers ,&how to solve the problems in the Adding&Subtracting Fractions area. 🙂

    • CatreshaP.

      Hi I have the answers for your two problems. The answer for the first one is 1 1/4. The answer for the second one is 53 7/8 . If you have the calculator(casio-fx260) the fraction key is just below the shift key. You will still need to know how to workout the prob on your own,just incase you dont have one around,or they dont let you use it @ the testing site

  • demaura

    hello im a 40 yr old whos been out of school since 1989 and ive decided to take the ged test next month, my weakest subject is math and i knw nothing, especially algbra and gemotry and also having problems with word problems, i really need some help. dont knw where to taking pretest on this website called how can u help me so i can pass this math


    I have passed every part of the Ged test. I need help in math to complete my final stage. If there is anything that your company can do for me please feel free to contact me as soon as possible. I need your help before the new year begin, and this year end. If I don’t finalize my test scores before December 31, 2013, I will have to start all over.

    • wander33

      You have to finalize by Dec 13 which is in two days! There will be no testing afterwards.

      • Anonymous

        Correction,he/she has till tomarrow?Which is the 19th of December.

      • Alexandra Edlin

        Correction,he/she has until tomarrow ,to finish the test.Which is Dec.19th 2013

  • Sandra Dee

    Please give more exampl algebra.

  • jose

    how comes u had to add n to 2n where did that single n come from

  • James Dean

    I don’t know, how my math homework cpuld help to solve some world problems. But if you say it does, then I feel good about it

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