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1: Problem Solving

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    In previous math courses, you’ve no doubt run into the infamous “word problems.” Unfortunately, these problems rarely resemble the type of problems we actually encounter in everyday life. In math books, you usually are told exactly which formula or procedure to use and are given exactly the information you need to answer the question. In real life, problem-solving requires identifying an appropriate formula or procedure, and determining what information you need (and won’t need) to answer the question.

    In this chapter, we will review several basic but powerful algebraic ideas: percents, rates, and proportions. We will then focus on the problem-solving process, and explore applying these ideas to solve problems where we don’t have perfect information.

    • 1.1: Percents
      In the 2004 vice-presidential debates, Edwards claimed that US forces have suffered “90% of the coalition casualties” in Iraq. Cheney disputed this, saying that in fact Iraqi security forces and coalition allies “have taken almost 50 percent” of the casualties. Who is correct? How can we make sense of these numbers? Percent literally means “per 100,” or “parts per hundred.” When we write 40%, this is equivalent to the fraction 40/100 or the decimal 0.40. Notice that 80 out of 200 and 10 out of
    • 1.2: Proportions and Rates
      If you wanted to power the city of Seattle using wind power, how many windmills would you need to install? Questions like these can be answered using rates and proportions.
    • 1.3: Geometry
      Geometric shapes, as well as area and volumes, can often be important in problem-solving. It may be helpful to recall some formulas for areas and volumes of a few basic shapes.
    • 1.4: Problem Solving and Estimating
      Finally, we will bring together the mathematical tools we’ve reviewed, and use them to approach more complex problems. In many problems, it is tempting to take the given information, plug it into whatever formulas you have handy, and hope that the result is what you were supposed to find. Chances are, this approach has served you well in other math classes.
    • 1.5: Exercises
      This page contains 80 exercise problems related to the material from Chapter 1.
    • 1.6: Extension: Taxes
      Governments collect taxes to pay for the services they provide. In the United States, federal income taxes help fund the military, the environmental protection agency, and thousands of other programs. While very few people enjoy paying taxes, they are necessary to pay for the services we all depend upon. Taxes can be computed in a variety of ways, but are typically computed as a percentage of a sale, of one’s income, or of one’s assets.
    • 1.7: Income Taxation
      Many people have proposed various revisions to the income tax collection in the United States. Some, for example, have claimed that a flat tax would be fairer. Others call for revisions to how different types of income are taxed since currently investment income is taxed at a different rate than wage income. The following two projects will allow you to explore some of these ideas and draw your own conclusions.

    Thumbnail: Unsplash License; Volodymyr Hryshchenko via Unsplash

    This page titled 1: Problem Solving is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Darlene Diaz (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.