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# The CA SOLVE Approach to Word Problems for CBEST Exam Study Guide

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Updated on Mar 29, 2011

Of course, it helps to know the formula or method needed to solve a problem. But there are always those problems on the test that you don't recognize or can't remember how to do, and this may cause you a little anxiety. Even experienced math teachers experience that paralyzing feeling at times. But you shouldn't allow anxiety to conquer you. Nor should you jump into a problem and start figuring madly without a careful reading and analysis of the problem.

### The CA SOLVE Approach

When approaching a word problem, you need the skills of a detective. Follow the CA SOLVE method to uncover the mystery behind a problem that is unfamiliar to you.

#### C Stands for Conquer

Conquer that queasy feeling—don't let it conquer you. To squelch it, try step A.

Look at the answers and see if there are any similarities among them. Notice the form in which the answers are written. Are they all in cubic inches? Do they all contain pi? Are they all formulas?

#### S Stands for Subject Experience

Many problems are taken from real-life situations or are based on methods you already know. Ask: "Do I have any experience with this subject or with this type of problem? What might a problem about the subject be asking me? Can I remember anything that might relate to this problem?"

Eliminate experiences or methods of solving that don't seem to work. But be careful; sometimes sorting through your memory for experiences and methods takes a long time.

#### O Stands for Organize the Facts

Here are some ways to organize your data:

1. Look for clue words in the problem that tell you to add, subtract, multiply, or divide.
2. Try out each answer to see which one works. Look for answers to eliminate.
3. Think of formulas or methods that have worked for you in solving problems like this in the past. Write them down. There should be plenty of room on your test booklet for this.
##### Hot Tip

Don't try to keep a formula in your head as you solve the problem. Although writing does take time and effort, jotting down a formula is well worth it for three reasons: 1) A formula on paper will clear your head to work with the numbers; 2) You will have a visual image of the formula you can refer to and plug numbers into; 3) The formula will help you see exactly what operations you will need to perform to solve the problem.

#### L Stands for Live

Living the problem means pretending you're actually in the situation described in the word problem. To do this effectively, make up details concerning the events and the people in the problem as if you were part of the picture. This process can be done as you are reading the problem and should take only a few seconds.

#### V Stands for View

View the problem with different numbers to help you get a better sense of the steps you will need to take in order to solve it. This tactic is especially helpful when the sight of a large or complex number is so overwhelming that you just don't know where to start. For example, you might be intimidated by being asked to calculate how long it would take a rocket traveling 650 miles per hour to go 1,300,000 miles. To view the problem differently, you might think of how long it would take a car traveling 10 miles per hour to go 50 miles. Write down the steps you will take to solve the simpler problem, and then apply them to the more complex problem in just the same way.