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Best way to learn - use the solution manual often or not?

  1. Sep 6, 2013 #1
    So what is the best way to learn physics, math etc.:

    Do loads of problems by using the solutions manual every time you get stuck?

    or

    Do few problems but use the solution rarely, rather getting unstuck by thinking hard?

    Thoughts?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 6, 2013 #2
    Get unstuck by using Homework and Coursework questions Forum...:biggrin:
     
  4. Sep 6, 2013 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    How strong do you think you get by watching other people lift weights?
     
  5. Sep 6, 2013 #4
    Can get pretty strong if you learn the proper form from said people.

    Is it really unreasonable to have a low threshold to use the solutions manual?? Many of my fellow students use it/ask other people almost immediately if they are stuck. To me this seems attractive, as you can spend much less time on problems that way, especially with courses like Fluid Mechanics, where I have little intuition.

    But I realize there is allot of value in trying stuff out and experimenting, so I am split.. I'm very tempted in just giving in and start using the solutions manual freely, but I would like to know tips from you guys 1st.
     
  6. Sep 6, 2013 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    And never lift yourself?
     
  7. Sep 6, 2013 #6
    Why would you spoil all the fun by looking at the solution? Why solve anything then? Just read the solutions manual for practice.
     
  8. Sep 6, 2013 #7
    I definitely would strongly advise a solutions manual just as long as you know how to use it properly.

    If you're stupid enough to just copy the answers from the manual, then you're going to fail either way and you might as well just drop the post-secondary education to save some debt.

    The most important thing about the solutions manual is that it gives you instant feedback after you have failed to do the question.

    While using the Homework and Coursework Questions Forum is probably better for your understanding, if your load is high (such as in engineering), you can't afford to spend that much time since it is much slower than a manual.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  9. Sep 6, 2013 #8

    reenmachine

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    I've been told not to check solutions at the end of textbooks , and I agree with the advice I received.Maybe you think "Oh I'm fairly certain that I could solve it if I spent an hour on it so why bother?" , well sometimes this might be true , but sometimes maybe you are selling the problem short and you would struggle for days.
     
  10. Sep 6, 2013 #9

    lisab

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    If you're really struggling to learn a technique, I think it's OK to rely on a solutions manual.

    But what "really struggling" means will vary from person to person. Towards the end of my university days, it wasn't unusual to spend hours (and hours) trying to "get" something.

    It's good to get used to struggling, IMO.
     
  11. Sep 6, 2013 #10

    SteamKing

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    It would certain be a lot cheaper, if the OP's thesis were true, to purchase only the solution manual for a course text rather than a bloated, overpriced textbook. Obviously, test taking would be a breeze if you only had to study the answer key.
     
  12. Sep 6, 2013 #11
    I think it's fine to use to check your work, once you feel you've done all you can. However, getting an answer from a solutions manual is never going to stick with you like it will when you get it yourself. That "eureka" moment is really important for truly understanding something.

    So use the solutions manual if you want, but know you're handicapping yourself in the long run.
     
  13. Sep 6, 2013 #12

    ZombieFeynman

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    There is no solution manual for anything you will ever get paid well to do. Otherwise, the person that wrote the manual would be doing your job. It's best to get used to this fact early.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  14. Sep 6, 2013 #13
    If you need to check the SM on a problem that you are very stuck on, it's not bad. But if you immediately go to the solutions manual every time you get stuck, you'll never learn the correct method for thinking the problems through. If the solutions manual helps you to build your understanding of the problem solving methods for that topic, then use it (SPARINGLY). It should be there only to check your final answers, or to discover intermediate steps which you may not have thought to use.

    You're friends in school will be in trouble if they don't learn how to think through a tough problem. Tests don't have solutions manuals, and as ZombieFeynman said, there's no solutions manual for problems you'll encounter in industry. Learn to do the problems without the manual. Work through them completely, then check to see if you did it correctly.
     
  15. Sep 6, 2013 #14
    Guys, keep in mind that I'm obviously not advocating writing straight from the manual. I'm asking whether it's smart to spend a long time on cracking a stuck problem, or just try for 10 minutes and give up and look at how it should be done.

    -----

    Thanks for the advice though. It seems that the consensus here is to use the manual sparingly - as I feared and as I have been doing throughout my life. Oh well, thanks for the help. Nothing like a free lunch.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  16. Sep 6, 2013 #15

    Evo

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    Students aren't even supposed to have the solution manuals... I never used one. But, I never had any really tough courses.
     
  17. Sep 6, 2013 #16
    Then you probably never had to deal with systems of PDEs.

    At some point everybody needs to get a problem explained, or use a solutions manual. At least if they study a scientific/engineering subject.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  18. Sep 6, 2013 #17

    jgens

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    I would say neither. My opinion is that you should do loads of problems and get unstuck by thinking hard :tongue:
     
  19. Sep 6, 2013 #18
    Solution manuals are great for letting you see if you did it wrong or right. Of course try to get an answer first... But if you never see the solution you have no idea if you are doing it correctly or not. You cant correct bad habits if you dont know you have them. This is what homework should be about, learning - not testing. I think it can be not only useless, but counterproductive to spend loads of time solving problems with no idea whether your answers or technique are correct.
     
  20. Sep 6, 2013 #19

    Evo

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    When I was in school, you found out if you were doing it wrong when your homework was graded. :smile: Homework scores were part of your grade, using a solution manual to correct your homework before turning it in was called...CHEATING. Is this no longer the case?
     
  21. Sep 6, 2013 #20
    That would be nice! Its usually a little too late by then though, thats weeks after the material was covered.
     
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