Solving Word Problems: As Easy as PIES!

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2012


Many students are challenged when tasked to complete a word problem. While they may know the procedural steps to solve an equation, translating a word problem into an appropriate equation and producing a solution may often cause students to become confused or unwilling to try. This article provides a potential solution for teachers by discussing the use of a simple mnemonic tool to help organize the process. Mnemonics are a useful and effective strategy to help students with learning disabilities remember information and process steps. In the strategy presented, the mnemonic PIES is used to describe a 4-step process for solving word problems in which the acronym is described as P=Picture (draw a simple sketch) based on the situation described by the word problem), I=Information (circle key words in the problem and write next to picture), E=Equation (find an equation that fits the information), and S=Solve (solve the equation to produce an answer). PIES has been successfully used with all students in an inclusive high school Physics classroom, as well as self-contained high school science classes. Suggestions and an example for teachers are included.


Available as an open access article from the publisher at This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.