Math Strategy for Test Prep: CHOOSING A NUMBER STRATEGY

Mar 29, 2012 by Yolanda Fontanez-Coleman | SAT Prep, Testing

There are numerous test taking strategies for students to use when attacking the math sections of the SAT or ACT assessments.  When reading a math question for the first time, it can be somewhat overwhelming, especially when the numbers don’t jump out at you or information seems to be missing.  Don’t panic, just choose a number!  Choosing a number allows you to plug in a number when completing an equation in order to figure out which answer choice is the correct answer.  Using this strategy allows for steps to come together and for an answer to appear.  Make sure you follow the math problem step by step though, missing a step will not yield the correct answer even if you are using a strategy!  Here’s how it works:


Four years ago, Amber was exactly twice as old as her younger brother.  If Amber is Y years old now, in terms of Y, how old is her younger brother now?

You’re probably thinking you don’t know where to start, but all you have to do is CHOOSE A NUMBER!  A rule of thumb is to choose a “base number”, meaning a number that is easy to manipulate (add, subtract, multiply, or divide).  So for this problem, let’s choose the number 10, so Amber’s current age, or Y, equals 10.  Using this number, we can figure out how old Amber was 4 years ago (10-4 = 6).  We are able to conclude that Amber was 6 years old during that time.  If she is twice as old as her brother, then 6/2 = 3.  So when Amber was 6 years old, her brother was 3 years old.  Lastly, if her brother was 3 years old 4 years age, now he must be 7 (3+4-7).

Try this strategy on other math problems! Let us know if this strategy works for you!

Blog submitted by Meredith Mathers, Team Tutor Test Prep Specialist

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