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Questions to Ask Yourself When Problem Solving

Phase I:  Understanding the Problem

  • What information have I been given?  What information do I need to find?  Can I draw a picture depicting the given information?  How would I restate the problem in my own words?  What type of problem is this Have  I seen a similar problem before?  Is there a similar problem in the textbook?  What characteristics of the given information jump out as potentially important? Why might they be important? Do I fully understand the set-up and what is required of me? If not, what can I do that would help me better understand this? Do not move on to Phase II until you feel sure you understand the problem!

Phase II: Devising a Plan

  • Initial ideas:  Do I have any initial ideas as to how I might possibly solve this problem? What other information can I derive from the given information? How have I solved a similar problem in the past
  • Following up on initial ideas: Where would this idea get me? How would it help me got closer to the answer? What would I do next after this idea? Does the idea make sense?
  • Troubleshooting: Can I think of a simpler version of this problem that is easier to solve? How would I solve the simpler problem? Can I break this problem into smaller parts that are easier to solve? Have I considered all pieces of given information? What other ways might I approach this problem?

Phase III: Carrying out the Plan

  • Have I achieved what I intended to in this step? Is the result of this step correct?

Phase IV: Checking Your Answer

  • Verifying your answer: Does my answer make sense? Is it plausible? Can I substitute my answer for the unknown in the problem? Does my answer match up with the given information? Does my answer have the right units?
  • Learning from your solution: Can I look back and see a simpler way to solve this problem? Can I succinctly summarize the approach I used to solve this problem?
  • Why was I asked to solve this problem?