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Improving problem solving skills?

  1. Oct 11, 2007 #1
    I'm a 4th year undergraduate physics major and I've realized too much of my college career have I just tried to get to the answer, copy example patterns, and look for a systematic way to solve problems. I realize this will get me nowhere; problem solving is where the physics fun is!

    What sort of mental process do you go about when approaching problems?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 11, 2007 #2
    1.Read question
    2.Think very hard
    3.Write down the answer
  4. Oct 11, 2007 #3


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    That only works when your name is Richard Feynman.

    IMO, experience and practice in solving problems is what makes you better at solving problems.
  5. Oct 12, 2007 #4
    You mean problems can't be solved by just thinking unless your name is Richard Feynman? :P (I know, the original quote is about Richard Feynman. :-p)
  6. Oct 12, 2007 #5
    You mention problem solving and right away people think "Feynman".

    My take on why he was so good at it was his attitude: he actually wanted to understand things to satisfy his own curiosity. He didn't view any of the myriad puzzles he solved during his life as "problems": irritating tasks to be fought with. To him all that kind of stuff was exiting, even exhilarating.

    I am not sure a person can adopt that attitude artificially in order to be good at physics or math. The curiosity and exitement have to be natural.
  7. Oct 13, 2007 #6


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    Try chess. It opens your mind to all logical possibilities. It also exposes the chinks in your logical armor and humbles you. Can't ask much more from a simple game.
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