# 4.6 Problem-solving strategies

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## Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

• Apply a problem-solving procedure to solve problems using Newton's laws of motion

The information presented in this section supports the following AP® learning objectives and science practices:

• 3.A.2.1 The student is able to represent forces in diagrams or mathematically using appropriately labeled vectors with magnitude, direction, and units during the analysis of a situation. (S.P. 1.1)
• 3.A.3.3 The student is able to describe a force as an interaction between two objects and identify both objects for any force. (S.P. 1.4)
• 3.B.1.1 The student is able to predict the motion of an object subject to forces exerted by several objects using an application of Newton's second law in a variety of physical situations with acceleration in one dimension. (S.P. 6.4, 7.2)
• 3.B.1.3 The student is able to re-express a free-body diagram representation into a mathematical representation and solve the mathematical representation for the acceleration of the object. (S.P. 1.5, 2.2)
• 3.B.2.1 The student is able to create and use free-body diagrams to analyze physical situations to solve problems with motion qualitatively and quantitatively. (S.P. 1.1, 1.4, 2.2)

Success in problem solving is obviously necessary to understand and apply physical principles, not to mention the more immediate need of passing exams. The basics of problem solving, presented earlier in this text, are followed here, but specific strategies useful in applying Newton’s laws of motion are emphasized. These techniques also reinforce concepts that are useful in many other areas of physics. Many problem-solving strategies are stated outright in the worked examples, and so the following techniques should reinforce skills you have already begun to develop.

## Problem-solving strategy for newton’s laws of motion

Step 1. As usual, it is first necessary to identify the physical principles involved. Once it is determined that Newton’s laws of motion are involved (if the problem involves forces), it is particularly important to draw a careful sketch of the situation . Such a sketch is shown in [link] (a). Then, as in [link] (b), use arrows to represent all forces, label them carefully, and make their lengths and directions correspond to the forces they represent (whenever sufficient information exists).

Step 2. Identify what needs to be determined and what is known or can be inferred from the problem as stated. That is, make a list of knowns and unknowns. Then carefully determine the system of interest . This decision is a crucial step, since Newton’s second law involves only external forces. Once the system of interest has been identified, it becomes possible to determine which forces are external and which are internal, a necessary step to employ Newton’s second law. (See [link] (c).) Newton’s third law may be used to identify whether forces are exerted between components of a system (internal) or between the system and something outside (external). As illustrated earlier in this chapter, the system of interest depends on what question we need to answer. This choice becomes easier with practice, eventually developing into an almost unconscious process. Skill in clearly defining systems will be beneficial in later chapters as well.

A diagram showing the system of interest and all of the external forces is called a free-body diagram    . Only forces are shown on free-body diagrams, not acceleration or velocity. We have drawn several of these in worked examples. [link] (c) shows a free-body diagram for the system of interest. Note that no internal forces are shown in a free-body diagram.

how can I read physics...am finding it difficult to understand...pls help
try to read several books on phy don't just rely one. some authors explain better than other.
Ju
And don't forget to check out YouTube videos on the subject. Videos offer a different visual way to learn easier.
Ju
hope that helps
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