Basic Problem Solving Recipe

1. Write down the important information in an organized way.

2. Draw useful diagrams.

3. Write down equations which relate known quantities to unknown quantities.

Use Symbols!

4. Manipulate these equations using calculus and algebra until you arrive at a final equation which is in the form of the unknown desired quantity on the left and all known quantities on the right.

Unknown = (known)(known) + (known)/(known)

5. Apply dimensional analysis techniques before working with the numbers.

6. Plug in the numbers with the units and arrive at a numerical answer.

7. Double check arithmetic.

8. Determine if the answer makes Physical Sense.

Why do this?

1. This provides an orderly way of solving the problem. This allows for easier review for finding any errors, and it makes it easier to study the method for exams and quizzes.

2. Cuts down on Stupid errors!

3. Once you get used to it, it is a faster method for solving problems. It actually involves less writing. For example, v is one symbol, 5 m/s is four symbols.

4. Physics is not number dependent.

5. Never Solve for Unasked for quantities!!

6. Calculators cause errors.


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This page last updated on January 11, 2020