Physics 220 Fundamentals

Problem Solving Strategy

There are two kinds of questions: those for which you already know the answers (or you know exactly how to find them), and those you don’t. The former are mere Exercises while the latter are bona-fide Problems. In your homework you’ll encounter both. When faced with a real problem (in life or on paper), there are some key steps to answering:focusing, identifying the core question or issue, the nature of the issue; resource checking, identifying what important information and you do and don’t have and what tools you need; planning, figuring out how to use the resources and information at your disposal to address the issue; checking & evaluating, making sure that your plan is a good one and really addresses the issue; executing, carrying out the plan. Whether you hear something scuttling around in your closet or you have an obtuse physics problem, these are the basic steps toward resolution.

Problem Solving Strategy (tailored for physics problems)
Problem Solving Template (print and work problems on the template)

Example (see a problem and the template used in its solution)