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How to be a better problem solver

  1. Dec 9, 2011 #1
    I am trying to get some tips for being a better problem solver, I struggle in physics and essentially all physics is is problem solving, so the fundamental root to my problem is a lack of problem solving skills. How can I improve them, because being a problem solver is so important in the world
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2011 #2
    I'm afraid there is only one way: solve more problems.

    All problems require some little trick, some extra insight. And once you've seen it, they can't take it away from you. The more problems you solve, the better you'll be.

    I remember the first day I saw epsilon-delta proofs. I was horrible at it, I couldn't solve one problem. But after working hard and doing a lot of problems, I can finally say that I can play with those things. The same is with every kind of problem.

    Don't get discourages. Rome wasn't built in one day. Don't expect to be able to do hard problems right away. But if you work hard, then I guarantee that you will get there.

    So take your textbook and stark working some problems!! (and with that, I mean the hard problems. Solving easy plug-and-chug things is silly).
  4. Dec 9, 2011 #3


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    Just work on problems of some sort. Also it will probably benefit you if you work on a variety of different problems and not just problems in one specific area.

    There are books on heuristics like Polya's How To Solve It which you may want to read, but yeah they should be complementary and not a substitute.

    Also take the time to think about what you are doing. Do a mental post-mortem on what you did and evaluate what went right, what went wrong, what could be improved, and what you learned in the context of knowledge and experience.

    Finally ask yourself what the big picture is: there is usually only a handful of key ideas that set the stage for everything else and its critical that you know and understand these. A problem is just one instance of the application of a core idea, and if you don't know the core ideas properly, you won't be able to stand back and really see what you are doing.

    With respect to the above its a good idea to ask your lecturer, TA, professor or even someone here at PF if you don't know where you are going with something.
  5. Dec 9, 2011 #4
  6. Dec 9, 2011 #5
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