How Problem Solving Can Help You In Math

July 30, 2007 7:11am CST
How Problem Solving Can Help You In Math How Problem Solving Can Help You In Math Math is a subject which is hated by many people. This is unfortunate, because mathematics lays down the foundation for all of the technology we have today. Computers, cell phones, cars, and space shuttles would not exist if it were not for mathematics. The reason why many people fail at math is because they haven't developed basic problem solving skills. To solve math problems, you have to look for the right things. The vast majority of math problems you encounter can be solved with established strategies. To solve a math problem, you will need to understand the techniques which are specific to the problem. It is also important to be able to collect the relevant information. Whether you are studying Algebra or Calculus, there are some general problem solving skills that will help you with any math problem you encounter. No matter how complicated a problem may seem, it is first important to realize that it is solvable. If you can't solve it, this means you're using the wrong strategies. This is where being flexible is so important. Instead of limiting yourself to a set number of techniques, why not try more? Being able to use problem solving for math requires practice. It is not something which can be learned over night. The first thing you will want to do is review the problems carefully. If it is a word problem, this is very important. You will next want to begin underlining words which are essential. For example, a word problem which uses the word "difference" is talking about subtraction, while a word problem that uses the word "product" will often be referring to multiplication. After you've underlined important words, you will next want to decide if you've encountered this problem before. If you have, this should give you some clues on how to solve it. You will also want to look at the facts you've been provided. Virtually all math problems will be presented with facts. Understanding the facts will allow you to look for solutions. After you fully understand the facts, you will now need to know what you're supposed to figure out. Are you looking for a missing variable? Are you supposed to find the average? Once you have the facts, and know what you need to look for, this sets the stage which can allow you to solve the problem. Once you have this information you will need to have a plan. Trying to solve math problems without a plan is like trying to drive a car without gas. It simply doesn't work. Whether you are taking basic math or Calculus 3, you need to have a plan for each problem you solve. If you are in school, your teacher will show you a plan for each problem. Studying and doing your homework will allow you to practice using this plan. When you take the test, it is simply a matter of remembering which plan to use for a certain problem. Common strategies that work for math problems are looking for patterns and simplifying. Many problems will feature a pattern. Knowing it will make the problem easy to solve. If you are taking advanced mathematics, many problems will need to be simplified before they can be solved. This requires you to have a plan for simplifying each complex problem you run into. After you've used a strategy to solve a math problem, you will next want to review it. Is the strategy and solution logical? Did you use the correct units? Did you properly answer the question? If the answer to these three questions is yes, it means that you've likely got the correct answer. Math is based on logic. People fail at math because they don't approach problems in a logical manner. Often, they don't have a plan, or don't know the strategies involved with solving the problem. Math is a tool. It should be seen as a way of solving a problem rather than a problem itself. This subject has led to the advancement of technology in so many different areas. Unfortunately, many people take it for granted. People commonly ask what math is good for. The answer to this question is simple. It is good for just about everything.
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