Calculus > Calculus Word Problems
Calculus word problems give you both the question and the information needed to solve the question using text rather than numbers and equations. Here are some general tips to solving calculus word problems. Looking for specific examples? You can find hundreds of examples on this site. Check out the Calculus Index.
Calculus Word Problems: Example
Step 1: Read through the word problem carefully. Don’t skim or skip over phrases and sentences that may seem unimportant. You may miss details that change the entire meaning of the passage. Once you’ve read through the problem once, write down the answer that the question is asking for. Note the format that you need to give the answer in. For example, you might have to give certain units.
Step 2: Break the word problem down into individual statements about the scenario described in the word problem. Record any numbers or equations given in these statements. Note the units of measurement.
Step 3: Either extract the main equation from the word problem or build the equation using the information presented in the statements. Fill in as much of the equation as you can using the information from the word problem.
Step 4: Solve the equation to produce the answer needed to satisfy the word problem.
Step 5: Double-check your calculations and consider whether your answer makes sense in the context of the word problem.
- Be sure to state the answer in the format in which it was requested.
- If the equation remains unsolvable, you may need to extract or build more equations using the rest of the available but unused information to answer the empty spaces in your main equation. This is one of the more difficult parts of solving calculus word problems. It’s also one of the most important. Having a solid understanding of calculus, particularly the fact that derivatives represent the rate of change of the equation, will help you when creating the necessary equations.