to help you solve problems.

There are various approaches you can use when trying to solve a problem.

Which of these will be most useful depends on the type of problem you are faced with.

Here are some general guidelines to help you.


  What do we need to find out? What do we know already? What will we do? Does our solution work?  

Is the solution a number? - a length? - a person? - an object? - an explanation? - something to be made? - something to do?  What kind of answer would sound right?


Underline the main facts - or re-write them - or put them in a table - or put them in a diagram.  Does the question tell us anything else (perhaps in a roundabout way)?


We could discuss the problem - or re-arrange information - or make a drawing.  We could try a systematic approach - or trial and error.  If there is a multiple choice, can we rule out any of the options?


Does our solution answer the problem?  Have we done what we were asked?  Could we explain what we did - and why?



Above all else - DON'T GIVE IN TOO EASILY

On the other hand, if you reach the solution rather quickly, CHECK that you have actually solved the problem.



Depending on the type of problem you are trying to solve, there are various tricks and approaches you can try.

Some of these are listed below.






Problems that have a strong visual element.


Problems that are largely to do with words - or that require discussion.


Problems that require a hands-on approach.


Problems that are predominantly mathematical or require a structured approach.


Problems that require a spark of insight to solve.


Take a different look at the problem - turn it at an angle - or sideways - or upside down - or look at it from a different direction - or half-close your eyes.  Try drawing this type of problem.  Sketch or doodle - it could help.


Make sure you have read the information properly - or listened carefully - and check that you understand all the words or phrases used.  Discuss this type of problem.  Discuss what the words mean.  What do the words make you think about?


You may need to move things around a bit - jiggle things - alter the way they fit - or just be more careful.  If you need to cut, fold or glue, make sure you do it precisely.  Do not be afraid to fiddle.


Set things out in order - decide which parts must come first.  Try making a list to solve this type of problem.  You could start from the end ("What do we need to find out?") and work backwards ("What will help us find out?"  "What do we know already that will help?").


This type of problem needs you to come up with lots of new ideas - so say the first thing that comes into your head (use "brainstorming" or "thought showers") and then check to see if it helps solve the problem.  Sometimes, it can help to be silly (in a sensible kind of way).



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