MIT, UW Researchers Develop System that Can Solve Word Problems


Alexander Saltarin of Tech Times reports, "Computer science researchers have developed a new computer system that has the capability of solving word problems automatically. The new system was developed by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with the help of other researchers from the University of Washington. Most of the research to develop the new system was conducted at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the MIT. Linguistic problems have always been a tricky subject for computer scientists. Unlike math, which is considered by many experts as a pure and accurate 'language,' computers often have difficulties in understanding the sometimes vague and confusing languages that humans use on a daily basis. However, the new computer system can actually be used to solve word problems often seen in basic math lessons at schools."


Saltarin continues, "To develop the system, the researcher used Macsyma and a sentence parser. These computational tools are used for research in math and linguistics. Macsyma is a tool that was also developed at the MIT back in the 60s, which may have potential applications in constructing an artificial intelligence. The tool is used to simplify mathematical equations by applying a template to make them appear for uniform and easier for computers to process. On the other hand, a sentence parser is used to represent certain segments of human words used in a sentence while showing the relationships between each part in a graph. By utilizing these two tools, the team was able to come up with a system that can comprehend and analyze the content of a given word problem. Using a sentence parses, the system is able to understand the words used in the problem. The system can then start distilling the word problem into a mathematical equation using the templates used by Macsyma."


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Image: Courtesy MIT