This is the sixth part in a series of how to conquer SAT and ACT Math by utilizing a Math Toolbox. For the complete list of the tools in the Math Toolbox and Part 1, visit here. Plug & chug is the final tool in your Math Toolbox. This tool will help you with nasty algebra problems that contain multiple variables or complicated equations with variables. The basic idea with plug & chug is to make the problem more manageable by replacing variables with easy numbers. For example, a good problem to use the plug & chug tool would look like this: “What is the product of the complex numbers (4z+3) and (-4z+3)?” At first glance, you need to use the FOIL (first, outer, inner, last) method to multiply the two sets of parentheses. However, instead of charting out all of the FOIL steps and potentially miscalculating something, why not plug in a number for z and chug away? If you pretend z is 2, then the first set of parentheses yields 11 and the second yields -5, or solution of -55. Much easier to solve, right?
Try a couple of numbers for the variables, like 1, 0 or -1, just in case. You should then check the answers for one of the numbers you found. If the variable z is in the answer choices, then plug and chug the number into the variables on the answer choices as well so that the answers choices do not contain variables. The plug & chug tool can make complicated algebra quite simple. It may not work for all problems, but it will work on some. This last point is a good way to close out this series on the math toolbox by reminding you that not all tools will work for every problem. Your job, now that you have a full toolbox, is to figure out which tool works best on the problem at hand. Your pencil, calculator, mental math, translator, back door and plug & chug tools can all be useful ways to solve SAT and ACT problems quickly and accurately. For more test prep advice, contact CROSSWALK, the Monterey Peninsula’s resource for test prep for the SAT, ACT, PSAT, SSAT and more.