Physics Problem Solving Strategies

" More than any other stage during the problem solution, it is during this stage that a student must think critically and apply their physics knowledge.

Difficult problems in physics (the kind which likely draw students to these audio help files) are multistep problems.

Nonetheless, anyone who puts effort into disciplining themselves to be successful at solving problems can learn how to be proficient at the task.

A student who devotes some time and attention to the list below and makes an effort to personalize it into their own approach to problems will improve their problem-solving ability.

One of the instructional goals of the Audio Help files is to assist students in becoming better and more confident problem-solvers.

If all students who are good problem-solvers could be observed doing problems, then one would not necessarily observe that they use the same approaches to solving problems.The mathematical formula is written in the form of symbols which represent some physical quantity such as focal length, distance, acceleration or force.Before performing such substitutions, the student must first equate the numerical information contained in the verbal statement with the appropriate physical quantity.The list is NOT an exhaustive list; it simply includes some commonly observed habits which good problem-solvers practice.Anyone can be a good problem-solver; because of personality and learning style differences, some will certainly be better than others.As mentioned earlier, physics problems begin as word problems and terminate as mathematical exercises.During the algebraic/mathematical part of the problem, the student must make substitution of known numerical information into a mathematical formula (and hopefully into the correct formula ).And if the problem pertains to vector addition, a vector addition diagram may be drawn.But regardless of the topic, a good problem-solver typically begins the translation of the written words into mathematical variables by an informative sketch or diagram which depicts the situation.It is the habit of a good problem-solver to carefully read the verbal statement and to combine the attention to units (meters, kilograms, Joules, etc.) with their understanding of the meaning of physical quantities in order to accurately extract the numerical information and equate it with the appropriate symbol.Furthermore, good problem-solvers will conduct this task by writing down the quantitative information with its unit and symbol in an organized fashion, often recording the values on their diagram.

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