Getting Unstuck


  1. Persevere! Keep trying
    different strategies and
    stay open to creative ideas.
    Try not to get frustrated.



  1. Be more active in the solution!!
    1. Ask yourself questions about the problem.
      Is this problem a routine one? What data
      are missing? What equations can I use?
      Explore the problem.
    2. Draw sketches of what you think that the
      solution should look like.
      temperature-time curve).
    3. Write equations.
    4. Keep track of your progress.



  1. Re-focus on the fundamentals. Review the textbook
    and lecture material. Look for similar examples.
    Study the examples given. Change what is given in
    the example and what is asked, then try to see how
    it might relate to the problem you are addressing.



  1. Break the problem into parts. Analyze the parts
    of the problem. Concentrate on the parts of the
    problem you understand and that can be solved.



  1. Verbalize the problem to yourself and others.



  1. what the problem is
  2. what you have done, and
  3. where you are stuck


  1. Paraphrase. Re-describe the problem.
    Think of simpler ways to describe
    the problem. Ask other classmates
    to describe the problem to you in
    their own words.



  1. Use a heuristic or algorithm.
    The algorithm for closed-
    ended problems
    on this site
    is a good start, and others may
    be available to you.



  1. Look at extreme cases that could
    give insight and understanding.
    For instance:
    What happens if x = 0? x = infinity?



  1. Simplify the problem and solve a
    limiting case. Break up the
    problem into simpler pieces and
    solve each piece by itself. Find
    a related but simpler example and
    work from there.



  1. Try substituting numbers to see
    if a term can be neglected.



  1. Try solving for ratios to drop out
    parameters that are not given.
    You may find that you don't need
    to find some parameters because
    they cancel out!



  1. Look for hidden assumptions or for
    what information you have forgotten
    to use. After reading each phrase
    or sentence of the problem statement,
    ask yourself if any assumptions can
    be inferred from that phrase.



  1. Alternate working forward towards a
    solution and backwards from a solution
    you assumed. Working backwards may at
    least give you clues as to how you should
    approach the problem while working forward.



  1. Take a break. Incubate. Let your subconscious
    work on the problem while you do something else,
    like exercising, talking to friends, or just
    relaxing! Sometimes all you need is a break
    to achieve that final breakthrough!



  1. Brainstorm. Think of different approaches
    to the problem, no matter how strange.
    Guess the solution to the problem and then
    check the answer.



  1. Check again to make sure you
    are solving the right problem.
    Double-check all of your values,
    assumptions, and approaches. Make
    sure you haven't missed anything
    and that you are looking for the
    correct solution.



  1. Try using a different strategy.
    There is usually more than one
    way to solve a problem, and you
    may find a method that you haven't
    considered is much easier than the
    one you're working on currently.



  1. Ask for help! There are many
    resources you may go to for
    additional instruction or ideas.
    Instructors can usually steer
    you in the right direction and
    clarify your understanding of the
    problem. If allowed, your classmates
    may be the biggest source of help,
    since they usually utilize many
    different approaches and can relate
    to your approach.


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