Answers to Math Problems: Get the Right Answer Every Time

Unfortunately, there's no way to guarantee that you'll get the right answer to your math problems every time, but there are a few ways to avoid preventable errors on homework, quizzes and exams. Keep reading for details!

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Getting the Right Answer in Math

Check Your Work

One of the most effective ways to avoid math errors is checking your work. This can be as simple as going back over the problem to look for obvious mistakes. An even more effective method for checking answers to math problems is called 'working backwards.'

The process varies depending on the type of problem you're checking. For example, if you're checking a simple operation like addition or subtraction, you would use the inverse property. If your answer states that 4 + 5 = 10, you can tell it's incorrect because 10 - 5 doesn't equal four. Likewise, 21 ÷ 3 = 9 is wrong because 9 x 3 = 27, not 21.

For problems where you've solved for a variable, you can usually plug your answer back into the original equation to check your work. For instance, if you found that x = 5 in the equation 20 + x = 24, you could see that this answer was incorrect by using this method. If you plug five into the spot where 'x' was, the equation isn't true: 20 + 5 = 25, not 24.

Budget Your Time

Checking your answers is all well and good, but you might not have time to do it if you don't pace yourself, especially on tests and quizzes. To budget your time well, it helps to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. If possible, skip over the questions that you don't know how to answer. Don't waste time trying to 'figure out' a skill that you haven't studied. Instead, use that time to check your work on problems that test skills you do know.

Also, no matter how tempting it may be, don't turn your test in early. If you finish before time is up, go back and thoroughly check your answers. This doesn't mean you should second-guess your decisions, but you should look for obvious errors.

Show Your Work

It's tempting to try to solve problems in your head to save time, but this shortcut can end up costing you points on an exam. When you write out each step in your answer, it's easier to catch math errors as soon as you make them, and it's also easier to avoid skipping a critical step in the problem. Additionally, it helps you check your work after you've finished the exam.

Re-read the Question

Although most math teachers won't intentionally try to trip you up, they will expect you to thoroughly read each question. After you've arrived at your answer, go back to the question and make sure that you've actually answered what was asked. For instance, did you provide your answer in the correct units?

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