Using a Problem-Solving Strategy to Solve Number Problems

Learning Outcomes

  • Apply the general problem-solving strategy to number problems
  • Identify how many numbers you are solving for given a number problem
  • Solve consecutive integer problems

Now we will translate and solve number problems. In number problems, you are given some clues about one or more numbers, and you use these clues to build an equation. Number problems don’t usually arise on an everyday basis, but they provide a good introduction to practicing the Problem-Solving Strategy. Remember to look for clue words such as difference, of, and and.


The difference of a number and six is [latex]13[/latex]. Find the number.


Step 1. Read the problem. Do you understand all the words?
Step 2. Identify what you are looking for. the number
Step 3. Name. Choose a variable to represent the number. Let [latex]n=\text{the number}[/latex]
Step 4. Translate. Restate as one sentence.Translate into an equation.

 [latex]n-6\enspace\Rightarrow[/latex] The difference of a number and 6[latex]=\enspace\Rightarrow[/latex] is

[latex]13\enspace\Rightarrow[/latex] thirteen

Step 5. Solve the equation.Add 6 to both sides.




Step 6. Check:The difference of [latex]19[/latex] and [latex]6[/latex] is [latex]13[/latex]. It checks.

Step 7. Answer the question. The number is [latex]19[/latex].



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The sum of twice a number and seven is [latex]15[/latex]. Find the number.


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Watch the following video to see another example of how to solve a number problem.

Solving for Two or More Numbers

Some number word problems ask you to find two or more numbers. It may be tempting to name them all with different variables, but so far we have only solved equations with one variable. We will define the numbers in terms of the same variable. Be sure to read the problem carefully to discover how all the numbers relate to each other.


One number is five more than another. The sum of the numbers is twenty-one. Find the numbers.


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Watch the following video to see another example of how to find two numbers given the relationship between the two.


The sum of two numbers is negative fourteen. One number is four less than the other. Find the numbers.


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One number is ten more than twice another. Their sum is one. Find the numbers.


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Solving for Consecutive Integers

Consecutive integers are integers that immediately follow each other. Some examples of consecutive integers are:

[latex]\begin{array}{c}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\\ \phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\\ \phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\\ \phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\\ \hfill \text{…}1,2,3,4\text{,…}\hfill \end{array}[/latex]

Notice that each number is one more than the number preceding it. So if we define the first integer as [latex]n[/latex], the next consecutive integer is [latex]n+1[/latex]. The one after that is one more than [latex]n+1[/latex], so it is [latex]n+1+1[/latex], or [latex]n+2[/latex].

[latex]\begin{array}{cccc}n\hfill & & & \text{1st integer}\hfill \\ n+1\hfill & & & \text{2nd consecutive integer}\hfill \\ n+2\hfill & & & \text{3rd consecutive integer}\hfill \end{array}[/latex]


The sum of two consecutive integers is [latex]47[/latex]. Find the numbers.


Step 1. Read the problem.
Step 2. Identify what you are looking for. two consecutive integers
Step 3. Name. Let [latex]n=\text{1st integer}[/latex][latex]n+1=\text{next consecutive integer}[/latex]

Step 4. Translate.Restate as one sentence.

Translate into an equation.

[latex]n+n+1\enspace\Rightarrow[/latex] The sum of the integers[latex]=\enspace\Rightarrow[/latex] is

[latex]47\enspace\Rightarrow[/latex] 47

Step 5. Solve the equation. [latex]n+n+1=47[/latex]
Combine like terms. [latex]2n+1=47[/latex]
Subtract 1 from each side. [latex]2n=46[/latex]
Divide each side by 2. [latex]n=23[/latex]      1st integer
Substitute to get the second number. [latex]n+1[/latex]     2nd integer
Step 6. Check: [latex]23+24\stackrel{\text{?}}{=}47[/latex][latex]47=47\quad\checkmark[/latex]

Step 7. Answer the question. The two consecutive integers are [latex]23[/latex] and [latex]24[/latex].


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Find three consecutive integers whose sum is [latex]42[/latex].


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Watch this video for another example of how to find three consecutive integers given their sum.