Reading the problem, and reading it more than one time, is key to solving math word problems. Attempt to break the problem down into smaller steps. Look for key words in the language of the problem that can serve as a guide in selecting an operation.
Reading the problem two or three times is a good policy to follow. However, one should read the problem as many times as is necessary to understand what process to use. Often, a word problem has more than one step to perform. Carefully organizing the information given in a word problem helps see the information that is provided and determines what information is still needed.
Identify key words that indicate which mathematical operation needs to be used. Words and phrases such as "more than," "total" and "sum" indicate the use of addition. Phrases such as "decreased by," "less than" or "fewer than" indicate subtraction. Words such as "of," "product of" and "increased by a factor of" signal multiplication. Division is indicated by using the words "out of," "ratio" or "percent." Another successful way to approach some math word problems is to attempt to work backward.