The Strategies of Making a Table and Drawing a Picture in Word Problems Study Guide (page 2)

Updated on Oct 3, 2011

Drawing a Picture

The strategy of drawing a picture to solve a word problem may also shed light on patterns that may occur. It also gives a bird's-eye view to what is going on in certain problems. Take, for example, the following question. The method of solution will give a picture, or diagram, about the locations and distances used in the question that will make finding the correct answer much easier.


Joe leaves school and travels 3 miles directly west to his home. Later that night, he leaves home and goes north 2 miles to the public library. When he has finished at the library, he travels 5 miles east to his friend's house and then 2 miles south to his grandmother's house. If his grandmother lives 2 miles from his school, how far away is his grandmother's house from his house?

Read and understand the question. This question asks for the distance between Joe's house and his grandmother's house.

Make a plan. Joe's route after school is detailed in the problem. Draw a picture of the route Joe took after school. Use these details, along with knowledge of east, west, north, and south to find the distance between points.

Carry out the plan. Draw a picture of Joe's route. Recall that on a map, west is to the left of north, north is to the left of east, east is to the right of north, and south is to the right of west. Use these facts as you retrace the path. A possible picture of Joe's path is shown in the following figure.

The Strategies of Making a Table and Drawing a Picture

His path is 3 miles west, then 2 miles north, 5 miles east, and 2 miles south. At this point, he is 2 miles directly east of school. Because he lives 3 miles east of school, his home is 2 + 3 = 5 miles from his grandmother's house. The distance between Joe's house and his grandmother's house is 5 miles.

Check your work. Compare the distances to check this problem. Joe went 2 miles north and 2 miles south, so these two distances cancel each other out. He went 3 miles west, and 5 miles east. This is a difference of 2 miles. However, since his trek did not begin at his house, add 3 miles between his home and school: 2 + 3 = 5 miles. This solution is reasonable.


When you are drawing a picture or diagram to solve a problem, try to label in the figure each of the details given in the question. That way, important information will not be left out when you are trying to find a solution.

Find practice problems and solutions for these concepts at The Strategies of Making a Table and Drawing a Picture in Word Problems Practice Questions.

View Full Article
Add your own comment