Strategies in solving math & physics problems

Here is a simple and easy to follow strategy you can use to breeze through difficult math problems.

Understand the problem carefully. The key to understanding is ready very carefully. Make sure that you understand the problem being presented, and you understand it correctly. You should point out the information that you are given, and what is being asked. If a picture can be drawn, make one. Illustrations are usually very helpful!

Make a plan.Focus on what is being asked in the problem. Try to ask yourself: “what information will you need to come up with the answer?”
Afterwards, look at the information given. Now if you are stuck and you see no logical connection between the information given to the solution, it probably means the math problem is more complicated than usual. Look at the information again and get whatever you can find from it. You will usually find another useful piece of information that can be subsequently used to solve the problem.

Write out the equations. Now you have to express your plan mathematically. This will involve:

Assigning some variable name to the unknowns. You can always use x, or d for distance, t for time, and so on.  If two quantities are given to be related, relate them so that both are expressed in just one variable. So, if Johnny is twice as old as Orlando, let x stand for Orlando’s age, and 2x for Johnny’s 🙂
Translating the English into the Math. Remember that in math, English phrases have corresponding mathematical meanings.

Solve the problem.

Now that you have the equations, carry out your plan and solve for what is asked. Remember that your solution must be what the problem is asking for! Be careful!

Check.

Check your answer. Is it reasonable enough? Does your answer even make sense? If you feel there is something off, trace back and see whether you have made a mistake in your calculation. Beginners ( & experts!) often make mistakes.

 
Good luck!
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