## Problem solving techniques | Physics Forums

Isaac Physics a project designed to offer support and activities in physics problem solving to teachers and students from GCSE level through to university. Strategies for Learning to Solve Physics Problems D. Farrell leeds, medical physics Ken Heller “I understand the concepts, I just can’t solve the problems.” School of Physics and Astronomy University of Minnesota 20 year continuing project to improve undergraduate education with contributions by. This document presents tips for honing your problem solving skills. These tips and techniques will prove useful to you in your physics courses, in your other college courses, in your career, and in your everyday life. To set the stage, I want to discuss an example of problem solving from everyday life, namely building a .

## Solving Problems in Physics

This semester I started tutoring in the physics and math study center. Most of them shy away from physics problems, though, letting me — and a handful *physics problem solving techniques* other tutors — deal with the dreaded subject. In general, physics seems to have this aura to it that scares people before they even start solving a problem. This begins with very basic physics, but continues with higher level material. The difference seems to be that only those who like physics — and find a good way of dealing with it — stick around to deal with the higher level stuff.

Physics — and most science subjects — can be very complicated. Describing our world is not always intuitive, and sometimes requires a mathematical and conceptual understanding that is very advanced. That much can explain why not everyone goes for a physics career.

That and, well, the salary. In basic physics — material covered in high school and low level university courses — the methodology is straightforward. In my experience tutoring for and taking low level physics classes, I have worked out a few ground rules that can help you conquer problems. These will help whether the problem is in a homework assignment or on an exam, *physics problem solving techniques*.

We will go over them now. Sounds obvious, right? You look at the question and the sentences loom at you menacingly, confusing you to no end, *physics problem solving techniques*. You have no idea where to start, even if you recognize the basic concepts. Whose cars go in which direction? What type of wave travels on the string? Help me, you think in terror. Help me…!

In lower level physics, most questions can be solved by simple formulas. As long as you remember these formulas, you are most of the way to an answer. From now on, the only thing that you need to concentrate on is converting the horrible, confusing chunk of text into readable bits that fit into your formulas. You can do that. What is going on in this problem? Is this a ball free-falling from some height? Figure out the context first. So you understand the physical situation now, and you know what subject this question deals with or multiple subjects.

Now, read the question again, and make sure you are clear on what it actually requires you to find. The same type of problem — say, bouncing ball — can ask you to find initial velocity, *physics problem solving techniques*, maximum height or angle of launch. Each of these will require a slightly different strategy. Make sure you know what you need to do. Another good tip to remember at this **physics problem solving techniques,** too, *physics problem solving techniques*, is that many physics problems have very crucial information in the wording.

A car starting from rest, **physics problem solving techniques**, for instance, means your initial velocity is zero. Two objects falling from a window might behave differently if they are both attached to one another. Word problems are confusing only because they hide the actual variables inside them.

Other times, there will be variables whose purpose is revealed in a later part of the question. Do this with all the information you get out of the question.

It will also make the original, confusing text unneeded. If you organize your information, your brain will be free to deal with actual physics instead of reading comprehension, **physics problem solving techniques**. In physics, drawing a picture can really make things easier. For example, getting a visual idea of your frame of reference, or of the difference between up positive and down negativecan mean the difference between a right answer and a wrong one.

Draw a rough schematic according to the situation. Arrows are your friends in physics questions — they show you which direction an object is moving or what the possible sum **physics problem solving techniques** forces applied to it are. They organize the information for you. Use them. Some questions already come with a drawing — use it! Sometimes your professor will test your unit conversion skills. You have to make sure your units are the same throughout the exercise, otherwise formulas will not work.

If you multiply velocity by time, you will get *physics problem solving techniques* distance assuming constant accelerationbut if the car moved at 10 km per hour for 5 minutes, multiplying 10 by 5 will not give you the right answer. Rather, you will need to either convert the kilometers per hour to kilometers per minute, or and probably easier convert 5 minutes to units of **physics problem solving techniques.** The best way to do this is by fractions, but there are enough unit conversion guides out there that explain this concept.

Remember not to panic, do it carefully and you will get your correct values. If we continue our example from the last part, we should convert the t final from minutes to hours, **physics problem solving techniques**. This is true for most of physics questions, and absolutely true in the lower level physics. As a student of basic physics, you are not expected to reinvent the wheel — or even understand how the wheel was invented in the first place.

What you are expected to do is to understand the concepts and use the tools available to you. I remember taking an advanced electromagnetism course where I had to memorize about **physics problem solving techniques** different formulas. At first it seemed terrible, and I kept remembering them wrong. However, **physics problem solving techniques**, the more you use the formulas, *physics problem solving techniques*, and the more you understand what they mean and — if you care enough to check — where they came from, the easier it gets to remember them.

Organize your formulas in front of you. If you have a cheat sheet, align it next to your variables. What formula can you fill up, leaving the least amount of missing *physics problem solving techniques* Which formula can help you solve the question? How do you know which one to use?? Naturally, you begin panicking again. They are derived from physical properties, and they are all interconnected.

In most physics problems, there is more *physics problem solving techniques* one way to reach a solution, often meaning that more than one equation can work. In fact, in the vast majority of questions, no matter what equation you use — assuming that it is relevant to the subject matter, and that you insert the proper variables — you will reach a solution.

The way to know which equation to use depends on two main issues: the variables given to you in the equation and your experience.

The more problems you solve, *physics problem solving techniques*, the more you will become familiar with strategies for picking the right formula. Until that happens, though, look for the formula that has the variable you already know from your list of variables and connects those to the one variable you are missing. If you have two missing variables, you will likely need two equations, **physics problem solving techniques**. Slow down, look at your variable list, and find the right ones.

Just remember: you might end *physics problem solving techniques* with a relatively lengthy equation to solve, or sometimes two or more. Keep glancing over at your list of variables. Keep the goal in mind. Solve the equations. This is a step many students skip, and then pay for. I paid for it dearly in my high school final physics exam, in fact, and I will never do it again. Verifying results can be as easy as skimming through your equations and taking 15 seconds to think about the answer you got.

What do I mean by verifying the result? If your question asks for minutes and your answer is in seconds, you missed a step. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you think to yourself right now, I bet. Everyone says it. Practice makes perfect. Practice to become better. I sometimes get amazed looks from the students I tutor when I come up with the perfect way to solve a question they just spent half an hour trying to solve. Well, as much as my ego would love to accept this compliment, **physics problem solving techniques**, I am no genius.

The reason I see the solution quickly is usually because I have experience — I did so many of these questions that I already anticipate which method would likely work best.

Am I right all the time? Of course not. Sometimes I start with one method and find it was the wrong way. The more you do them, the less time it takes you to recognize the actual effective way to solve them.

Physics is less hard than you think most of the **physics problem solving techniques.** A man drags a box across the floor with a force of 40N at an angle. The mass of the box is 10kg. If the acceleration of the box is 3. We said there that since the acceleration is on the horizontal, we will need to consider the horizontal force or projection of that force.

Strategies for Learning to Solve Physics Problems D. Farrell leeds, medical physics Ken Heller “I understand the concepts, I just can’t solve the problems.” School of Physics and Astronomy University of Minnesota 20 year continuing project to improve undergraduate education with contributions by. Isaac Physics a project designed to offer support and activities in physics problem solving to teachers and students from GCSE level through to university. Oct 31, · In algorithms, we learn various problem-solving techniques namely Dynamic Programming, Greedy Algorithms, Divide and Conquer and more. Why am I studying this is a computer science course? I think these are general problem solving techniques, not just related to computer science, right? Basically in.