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Problem solving


Everyone must have felt at least once in his or her life how wonderful it would be if we could solve a problem at hand preferably without much difficulty or even with some difficulties. Unfortunately the problem solving is an art at this point and there are no universal approaches one can take to solving problems. Basically one must explore possible avenues to a solution one by one until one comes across a right path to a solution. Thus generally speaking, there is guessing and hence an element of luck involved in problem solving. However, in general, as one gains experience in solving problems, one develops one's own techniques and strategies, though they are often intangible. Thus the guessing is not an arbitrary guessing but an educated one. In this chapter we are going to learn a framework for problem solving and get a glimpse of strategies that are often used by experts. They are based on the work of Polya. For further study, his book, and others such as Larson are recommended (but not required).

A framework for problem solving

The following four phases can be identified in the process of solving problems: (1) Understanding the problem

(2) Making a plan of solution

(3) Carrying out the plan

(4) Looking back i.e. verifying

Each of the first two phases is going to be explained below a little more in detail. Phases (3) and (4) should be self-explanatory.

Understanding the problem

Needless to say that if you do not understand the problem you can never solve it. It is also often true that if you really understand the problem, you can see a solution. Below are some of the things that can help us understand a problem. (1) Extract the principal parts of the problem.

The principal parts are:

For "find" type problems, such as "find the principal and return for a given investment", UNKNOWNS, DATA and CONDITIONS, and for "proof" type problems HYPOTHESIS and CONCLUSION. For examples that illustrate these, see examples below. Be careful about hidden assumptions, data and conditions.

(2) Consult definitions for unfamiliar (often even familiar) terminologies.

(3) Construct one or two simple example to illustrate what the problem says.

Devising a solution plan

Where to start?

Start with the consideration of the principal parts: unknowns, data, and conditions for "find" problems, and hypothesis, and conclusion for "prove" problems.

What can I do?

Once you identify the principal parts and understand them, the next thing you can do is to consider the problem from various angles and seek contacts with previously acquired knowledge. The first thing you should do is to try to find facts that are related to the problem at hand. Relevant facts usually involve words that are the same as or similar to those in the given problem. It is also a good idea to try to recall previously solved similar problems.

What should I look for?

Look for a helpful idea that shows you the way to the end. Even an incomplete idea should be considered. Go along with it to a new situation, and repeat this process.

Questions & Answers

anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Discrete structures. OpenStax CNX. Jan 23, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10513/1.1
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