The Strategies of Looking for a Pattern and Making an Organized List Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Oct 3, 2011

Making an Organized List

Another strategy that can be used to solve many math word problems is making an organized list. This strategy is similar to looking for a pattern, but this time, you will make a list that will include all possibilities in a situation. Take a look at the problem below.


Richard has 3 different ties: blue, purple, and red, and four different dress shirts: green, yellow, white, and black. How many shirt-and-tie combinations can be made by selecting 1 shirt and 1 tie?

Use the problem-solving process to solve this question, along with the strategy of making an organized list.

Read and understand the question. The question is asking for the total number of possibilities when selecting 1 shirt and 1 tie. There are 3 ties and 4 shirts from which to choose.

Make up a plan. Make a list of all of the combinations of 1 shirt with 1 tie. Then count the total number of possibilities to find the answer.

Carry out the plan. Make an organized list pairing each tie with each shirt. An organized list could appear as follows:

blue—green purple—green red—green
blue—yellow purple—yellow red—yellow
blue—white purple—white red—white
blue—black purple—black red—black

This is a total of 12 different pairs; therefore, there are 12 different possibilities.

Check your work. Since there are 3 different ties being paired with four different shirts, there should be 4 + 4 + 4 =12 possibilities. This is the same as the number of items in the organized list.


When making an organized list, you can also use abbreviations for the words in your list. For example, b—g would represent the blue tie with the green shirt. This may make it easier and faster to construct your list.

Find practice problems and solutions for these concepts at The Strategies of Looking for a Pattern and Making an Organized List Practice Questions.

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