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## Three SAT Math Problem Solving Strategies You MUST Know

As a professional SAT coach, I find that most students who underperform in the SAT Math section are not lacking in math skills, but lacking in problem-solving strategies. Usually, a fairly simple math problem hides behind a logic riddle. It’s almost always this puzzle that prevents my students (at least initially) from solving the problem correctly, not a gap in their math skills. While there are many strategies that can help unlock these problems, there are three basic skills that can be used on EVERY SAT math problem.

** ****1.****Read and understand the problem.**

At first, this may seem trivial (good vocabulary word). Sure, you’re going to read the problem, but are you reading it carefully enough? Simple problems are stated simply and are rarely misinterpreted, but even problems of medium difficulty can confuse students (often intentionally). Here are a few tips :

- Pay attention to underlined, capitalized or bolded words.

*Which of the following could NOT be the value of x?*

- Look up these words and know what they mean

Integer – Positive – Negative – Consecutive

Prime – Factor – Multiple – Remainder

Product – Sum – Difference – Quotient

- Make sure you know what is required. All of the following could be requested by a question.

*What is the mean of x and y*

*What is the value of xy*

*What is the value of the largest number?*

You will probably need to find the values of x and y to solve this problem. You can almost be certain that the value of x or y will be one of the wrong answers provided.

**2.****Use examples.**

Examples help to understand the problem. If the ** **problem states that x and y are two consecutive positive prime numbers, write an example (like 7 and 11 or 13 and 17). This will help you understand the problem. Often you can choose simple numbers like 3, 4 or 5 to replace them with a problem instead of x, y or z.

If a problem indicates that a @ b = (a + b) / (a - b)

Try plugging in numbers like 3 @ 4 = (3 + 4) / (3 – 4) = -7 to better understand the problem.

**3.****Draw a picture. **

I saved the most important for last. There is NO problem-solving technique more powerful than drawing a picture. It’s a skill that needs to be developed, not that you need to be a great artist, but you need to know what to draw, how much detail you need, how to mark figures, etc. Here are some basic rules:

- Touch the figure as you read the problem. Show you what you read.

- Draw a picture or if a figure is already drawn, mark the figure with ALL the information provided in the problem AS SOON AS YOU HAVE READ IT. Do not wait until you have finished reading to mark the figure. You will forget to mark something.

- When you find something, mark it on the figure.

There are of course many other techniques to help improve the SAT math score, but these three are essential. Anyone who masters these three is well on their way to peak performance in SAT math.

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