# Physics Problem Solving Strategies

Physics problems begin as word problems and terminate as mathematical exercises.Before the mathematics portion of a problem begins, a student must translate the written information into mathematical variables.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.

Physics problems begin as word problems and terminate as mathematical exercises.Before the mathematics portion of a problem begins, a student must translate the written information into mathematical variables.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.

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In such cases, the time taken to plot out a strategy will pay huge dividends, preventing the loss of several frustrating minutes of impulsive attempts at solving the problem.

Good problem solvers use their background knowledge of physics and physics formulae to think about how the known information is related to each other and how it is related to the final unknown quantity.

Most good problem-solvers have unique little practices which make them different from other good problem-solvers.

Nonetheless, there are several habits which they all share in common.

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.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 ).The path from known information to the unknown quantity is often not immediately obvious.The problem becomes like a jigsaw puzzle; the assembly of all the pieces into the whole can only occur after careful inspection, thought, analysis, and perhaps some wrong turns.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.Many errors (and perhaps even most) can be traced back to this translation process.These errors are usually the result of a failure to visualize the physical situation described in the verbal statement of the problem or of a failure in missing some strategic information during the reading process.While a good problem-solver may not religiously adhere to these habitual practices, they become more reliant upon them as the problems become more difficult.The list below describes some of the habits which good problem-solvers share in common.