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Sentences as Single Variable Equations

Create and simplify equations to answer story-based questions

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Algebraic Equations to Represent Words

The sum of two consecutive even integers is 34. What are the integers?

Algebraic Expressions to Represent Words

To translate a problem from words into an equation, look for key words to indicate the operation used in the problem.

Once the equation is known, to solve the problem you use the same rules as when solving equations with one variable. Isolate the variable and then solve for it making sure that whatever you do to one side of the equals sign you do to the other side. Drawing a diagram is also helpful in solving some word problems.

Let's practice by writing out in algebraic expression for the following word problems:

  1. Two consecutive integers have a sum of 173. What are those numbers?

Let  be integer 1.

Then integer 2 (Because they are consecutive, they must be separated by only one number. For example: 1, 2, 3, 4,... all are consecutive.)

Translate the sentence into an equation and solve:

Therefore the first integer is 86 and the second integer is . Check: .

  1. When a number is subtracted from 35, the result is 11. What is the number?

Let  be the number.

Translate the sentence into an equation and solve:

Therefore the number is 24.

  1. When one third of a number is subtracted from one half of a number, the result is 14. What is the number?

Let  be the number.

Translate the sentence into an equation and solve:

You need to get a common denominator in this problem in order to solve it. For this problem, the denominators are 2, 3, and 1. The LCD is 6. Therefore multiply the first fraction by , the second fraction by , and the third number by .

Now that the denominator is the same, the equation can be simplified to be:

Therefore the number is 84.


Example 1

Earlier, you were given an algebraic expression "The sum of two consecutive even integers is 34" and asked to find the integers described by the statement.

Let integer 1

Then integer 2 (Because they are even, they must be 2 numbers apart. For example: 2, 4, 6, 8,... are all consecutive even numbers.)

Translate the sentence into an equation and solve:

Therefore the first integer is 16 and the second integer is . Note that is indeed 34.

Example 2

What is a number that when doubled would equal sixty?

 The number is 30.

Example 3

The sum of two consecutive odd numbers is 176. What are these numbers?

The first number is 87 and the second number is .

Example 4

The perimeter of a square frame is 48 in. What are the lengths of each side?

The side length is 12 inches.


  1. The sum of two consecutive numbers is 159. What are these numbers?
  2. The sum of three consecutive numbers is 33. What are these numbers?
  3. A new computer is on sale for 30% off. If the sale price is $500, what was the original price?
  4. Jack and his three friends are sharing an apartment for the next year while at university (8 months). The rent costs $1200 per month. How much does Jack have to pay if they split the cost evenly?
  5. You are designing a triangular garden with an area of 168 square feet and a base length of 16 feet. What would be the height of the triangular garden shape?
  6. If four times a number is added to six, the result is 50. What is that number?
  7. This week, Emma earned ten more than half the number of dollars she earned last week babysitting. If this week, she earned 100 dollars, how much did she earn last week?
  8. Three is twenty-one divided by the sum of a number plus five. What is the number?
  9. Five less than three times a number is forty-six. What is the number?
  10. Hannah had $237 in her bank account at the start of the summer. She worked for four weeks and now she has $1685 in the bank. How much did Hannah make each week in her summer job?
  11. The formula to estimate the length of the Earth's day in the future is found to be twenty–four hours added to the number of million years divided by two hundred and fifty. In five hundred million years, how long will the Earth's day be?
  12. Three times a number less six is one hundred twenty-six. What is the number?
  13. Sixty dollars was two-thirds the total money spent by Jack and Thomas at the store. How much did they spend total?
  14. Ethan mowed lawns for five weekends over the summer. He worked ten hours each weekend and each lawn takes an average of two and one-half hours. How many lawns did Ethan mow?
  15. The area of a rectangular pool is found to be 280 square feet. If the base length of the pool is 20 feet, what is the width of the pool?
  16. A cell phone company charges a base rate of $10 per month plus 5¢ per minute for any long distance calls. Sandra gets her cell phone bill for $21.20. How many long distance minutes did she use?

Review (Answers)

To see the Review answers, open this PDF file and look for section 2.8. 

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Algebraic Equation An algebraic equation contains numbers, variables, operations, and an equals sign.
Consecutive The term consecutive means "one after another." An example of consecutive numbers is 1, 2, and 3. An example of consecutive even numbers would be 2, 4, and 6. An example of consecutive odd numbers would be 1, 3, and 5.
Integer The integers consist of all natural numbers, their opposites, and zero. Integers are numbers in the list ..., -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3...

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