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Problem Solving Strategies
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Turn your team into skilled problem solvers with these problem-solving strategies
Picture this, you're handling your daily tasks at work and your boss calls you in and says, "We have a problem."
Unfortunately, we don't live in a world in which problems are instantly resolved with the snap of our fingers. Knowing how to effectively solve problems is an important professional skill to hone. If you have a problem that needs to be solved, what is the right process to use to ensure you get the most effective solution?
In this article we'll break down the problem-solving process and how you can find the most effective solutions for complex problems.
What is problem solving?
Problem solving is the process of finding a resolution for a specific issue or conflict. There are many possible solutions for solving a problem, which is why it's important to go through a problem-solving process to find the best solution. You could use a flathead screwdriver to unscrew a Phillips head screw, but there is a better tool for the situation. Utilizing common problem-solving techniques helps you find the best solution to fit the needs of the specific situation, much like using the right tools.
4 steps to better problem solving
While it might be tempting to dive into a problem head first, take the time to move step by step. Here’s how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team:
1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved
One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions. A good place to start is to ask journalistic questions, like:
Who : Who is involved with this problem? Who caused the problem? Who is most affected by this issue?
What: What is happening? What is the extent of the issue? What does this problem prevent from moving forward?
Where: Where did this problem take place? Does this problem affect anything else in the immediate area?
When: When did this problem happen? When does this problem take effect? Is this an urgent issue that needs to be solved within a certain timeframe?
Why: Why is it happening? Why does it impact workflows?
How: How did this problem occur? How is it affecting workflows and team members from being productive?
Asking journalistic questions can help you define a strong problem statement so you can highlight the current situation objectively, and create a plan around that situation.
Here’s an example of how a design team uses journalistic questions to identify their problem:
Overarching problem: Design requests are being missed
Who: Design team, digital marketing team, web development team
What: Design requests are forgotten, lost, or being created ad hoc.
Where: Email requests, design request spreadsheet
When: Missed requests on January 20th, January 31st, February 4th, February 6th
How : Email request was lost in inbox and the intake spreadsheet was not updated correctly. The digital marketing team had to delay launching ads for a few days while design requests were bottlenecked. Designers had to work extra hours to ensure all requests were completed.
In this example, there are many different aspects of this problem that can be solved. Using journalistic questions can help you identify different issues and who you should involve in the process.
2. Brainstorm multiple solutions
If at all possible, bring in a facilitator who doesn't have a major stake in the solution. Bringing an individual who has little-to-no stake in the matter can help keep your team on track and encourage good problem-solving skills.
Here are a few brainstorming techniques to encourage creative thinking:
Brainstorm alone before hand: Before you come together as a group, provide some context to your team on what exactly the issue is that you're brainstorming. This will give time for you and your teammates to have some ideas ready by the time you meet.
Say yes to everything (at first): When you first start brainstorming, don't say no to any ideas just yet—try to get as many ideas down as possible. Having as many ideas as possible ensures that you’ll get a variety of solutions. Save the trimming for the next step of the strategy.
Talk to team members one-on-one: Some people may be less comfortable sharing their ideas in a group setting. Discuss the issue with team members individually and encourage them to share their opinions without restrictions—you might find some more detailed insights than originally anticipated.
Break out of your routine: If you're used to brainstorming in a conference room or over Zoom calls, do something a little different! Take your brainstorming meeting to a coffee shop or have your Zoom call while you're taking a walk. Getting out of your routine can force your brain out of its usual rut and increase critical thinking.
3. Define the solution
After you brainstorm with team members to get their unique perspectives on a scenario, it's time to look at the different strategies and decide which option is the best solution for the problem at hand. When defining the solution, consider these main two questions: What is the desired outcome of this solution and who stands to benefit from this solution?
Set a deadline for when this decision needs to be made and update stakeholders accordingly. Sometimes there's too many people who need to make a decision. Use your best judgement based on the limitations provided to do great things fast.
4. Implement the solution
To implement your solution, start by working with the individuals who are as closest to the problem. This can help those most affected by the problem get unblocked. Then move farther out to those who are less affected, and so on and so forth. Some solutions are simple enough that you don’t need to work through multiple teams.
After you prioritize implementation with the right teams, assign out the ongoing work that needs to be completed by the rest of the team. This can prevent people from becoming overburdened during the implementation plan . Once your solution is in place, schedule check-ins to see how the solution is working and course-correct if necessary.
Implement common problem-solving strategies
There are a few ways to go about identifying problems (and solutions). Here are some strategies you can try, as well as common ways to apply them:
Trial and error
Trial and error problem solving doesn't usually require a whole team of people to solve. To use trial and error problem solving, identify the cause of the problem, and then rapidly test possible solutions to see if anything changes.
This problem-solving method is often used in tech support teams through troubleshooting.
The 5 whys problem-solving method helps get to the root cause of an issue. You start by asking once, “Why did this issue happen?” After answering the first why, ask again, “Why did that happen?” You'll do this five times until you can attribute the problem to a root cause.
This technique can help you dig in and find the human error that caused something to go wrong. More importantly, it also helps you and your team develop an actionable plan so that you can prevent the issue from happening again.
Here’s an example:
Problem: The email marketing campaign was accidentally sent to the wrong audience.
“Why did this happen?” Because the audience name was not updated in our email platform.
“Why were the audience names not changed?” Because the audience segment was not renamed after editing.
“Why was the audience segment not renamed?” Because everybody has an individual way of creating an audience segment.
“Why does everybody have an individual way of creating an audience segment?” Because there is no standardized process for creating audience segments.
“Why is there no standardized process for creating audience segments?” Because the team hasn't decided on a way to standardize the process as the team introduced new members.
In this example, we can see a few areas that could be optimized to prevent this mistake from happening again. When working through these questions, make sure that everyone who was involved in the situation is present so that you can co-create next steps to avoid the same problem.
A SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis can help you highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a specific solution. SWOT stands for:
Strength: Why is this specific solution a good fit for this problem?
Weaknesses: What are the weak points of this solution? Is there anything that you can do to strengthen those weaknesses?
Opportunities: What other benefits could arise from implementing this solution?
Threats: Is there anything about this decision that can detrimentally impact your team?
As you identify specific solutions, you can highlight the different strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each solution.
This particular problem-solving strategy is good to use when you're narrowing down the answers and need to compare and contrast the differences between different solutions.
Even more successful problem solving
After you’ve worked through a tough problem, don't forget to celebrate how far you've come. Not only is this important for your team of problem solvers to see their work in action, but this can also help you become a more efficient, effective , and flexible team. The more problems you tackle together, the more you’ll achieve.
Looking for a tool to help solve problems on your team? Track project implementation with a work management tool like Asana .
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Problem-Solving Strategies and Obstacles
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
Sean is a fact-checker and researcher with experience in sociology, field research, and data analytics.
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From deciding what to eat for dinner to considering whether it's the right time to buy a house, problem-solving is a large part of our daily lives. Learn some of the problem-solving strategies that exist and how to use them in real life, along with ways to overcome obstacles that are making it harder to resolve the issues you face.
What Is Problem-Solving?
In cognitive psychology , the term 'problem-solving' refers to the mental process that people go through to discover, analyze, and solve problems.
A problem exists when there is a goal that we want to achieve but the process by which we will achieve it is not obvious to us. Put another way, there is something that we want to occur in our life, yet we are not immediately certain how to make it happen.
Maybe you want a better relationship with your spouse or another family member but you're not sure how to improve it. Or you want to start a business but are unsure what steps to take. Problem-solving helps you figure out how to achieve these desires.
The problem-solving process involves:
- Discovery of the problem
- Deciding to tackle the issue
- Seeking to understand the problem more fully
- Researching available options or solutions
- Taking action to resolve the issue
Before problem-solving can occur, it is important to first understand the exact nature of the problem itself. If your understanding of the issue is faulty, your attempts to resolve it will also be incorrect or flawed.
Problem-Solving Mental Processes
Several mental processes are at work during problem-solving. Among them are:
- Perceptually recognizing the problem
- Representing the problem in memory
- Considering relevant information that applies to the problem
- Identifying different aspects of the problem
- Labeling and describing the problem
There are many ways to go about solving a problem. Some of these strategies might be used on their own, or you may decide to employ multiple approaches when working to figure out and fix a problem.
An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure that, by following certain "rules" produces a solution. Algorithms are commonly used in mathematics to solve division or multiplication problems. But they can be used in other fields as well.
In psychology, algorithms can be used to help identify individuals with a greater risk of mental health issues. For instance, research suggests that certain algorithms might help us recognize children with an elevated risk of suicide or self-harm.
One benefit of algorithms is that they guarantee an accurate answer. However, they aren't always the best approach to problem-solving, in part because detecting patterns can be incredibly time-consuming.
There are also concerns when machine learning is involved—also known as artificial intelligence (AI)—such as whether they can accurately predict human behaviors.
Heuristics are shortcut strategies that people can use to solve a problem at hand. These "rule of thumb" approaches allow you to simplify complex problems, reducing the total number of possible solutions to a more manageable set.
If you find yourself sitting in a traffic jam, for example, you may quickly consider other routes, taking one to get moving once again. When shopping for a new car, you might think back to a prior experience when negotiating got you a lower price, then employ the same tactics.
While heuristics may be helpful when facing smaller issues, major decisions shouldn't necessarily be made using a shortcut approach. Heuristics also don't guarantee an effective solution, such as when trying to drive around a traffic jam only to find yourself on an equally crowded route.
Trial and Error
A trial-and-error approach to problem-solving involves trying a number of potential solutions to a particular issue, then ruling out those that do not work. If you're not sure whether to buy a shirt in blue or green, for instance, you may try on each before deciding which one to purchase.
This can be a good strategy to use if you have a limited number of solutions available. But if there are many different choices available, narrowing down the possible options using another problem-solving technique can be helpful before attempting trial and error.
In some cases, the solution to a problem can appear as a sudden insight. You are facing an issue in a relationship or your career when, out of nowhere, the solution appears in your mind and you know exactly what to do.
Insight can occur when the problem in front of you is similar to an issue that you've dealt with in the past. Although, you may not recognize what is occurring since the underlying mental processes that lead to insight often happen outside of conscious awareness .
Research indicates that insight is most likely to occur during times when you are alone—such as when going on a walk by yourself, when you're in the shower, or when lying in bed after waking up.
How to Apply Problem-Solving Strategies in Real Life
If you're facing a problem, you can implement one or more of these strategies to find a potential solution. Here's how to use them in real life:
- Create a flow chart . If you have time, you can take advantage of the algorithm approach to problem-solving by sitting down and making a flow chart of each potential solution, its consequences, and what happens next.
- Recall your past experiences . When a problem needs to be solved fairly quickly, heuristics may be a better approach. Think back to when you faced a similar issue, then use your knowledge and experience to choose the best option possible.
- Start trying potential solutions . If your options are limited, start trying them one by one to see which solution is best for achieving your desired goal. If a particular solution doesn't work, move on to the next.
- Take some time alone . Since insight is often achieved when you're alone, carve out time to be by yourself for a while. The answer to your problem may come to you, seemingly out of the blue, if you spend some time away from others.
Obstacles to Problem-Solving
Problem-solving is not a flawless process as there are a number of obstacles that can interfere with our ability to solve a problem quickly and efficiently. These obstacles include:
- Assumptions: When dealing with a problem, people can make assumptions about the constraints and obstacles that prevent certain solutions. Thus, they may not even try some potential options.
- Functional fixedness : This term refers to the tendency to view problems only in their customary manner. Functional fixedness prevents people from fully seeing all of the different options that might be available to find a solution.
- Irrelevant or misleading information: When trying to solve a problem, it's important to distinguish between information that is relevant to the issue and irrelevant data that can lead to faulty solutions. The more complex the problem, the easier it is to focus on misleading or irrelevant information.
- Mental set: A mental set is a tendency to only use solutions that have worked in the past rather than looking for alternative ideas. A mental set can work as a heuristic, making it a useful problem-solving tool. However, mental sets can also lead to inflexibility, making it more difficult to find effective solutions.
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How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills
In the end, if your goal is to become a better problem-solver, it's helpful to remember that this is a process. Thus, if you want to improve your problem-solving skills, following these steps can help lead you to your solution:
- Recognize that a problem exists . If you are facing a problem, there are generally signs. For instance, if you have a mental illness , you may experience excessive fear or sadness, mood changes, and changes in sleeping or eating habits. Recognizing these signs can help you realize that an issue exists.
- Decide to solve the problem . Make a conscious decision to solve the issue at hand. Commit to yourself that you will go through the steps necessary to find a solution.
- Seek to fully understand the issue . Analyze the problem you face, looking at it from all sides. If your problem is relationship-related, for instance, ask yourself how the other person may be interpreting the issue. You might also consider how your actions might be contributing to the situation.
- Research potential options . Using the problem-solving strategies mentioned, research potential solutions. Make a list of options, then consider each one individually. What are some pros and cons of taking the available routes? What would you need to do to make them happen?
- Take action . Select the best solution possible and take action. Action is one of the steps required for change . So, go through the motions needed to resolve the issue.
- Try another option, if needed . If the solution you chose didn't work, don't give up. Either go through the problem-solving process again or simply try another option.
You can find a way to solve your problems as long as you keep working toward this goal—even if the best solution is simply to let go because no other good solution exists.
Sarathy V. Real world problem-solving . Front Hum Neurosci . 2018;12:261. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00261
Dunbar K. Problem solving . A Companion to Cognitive Science . 2017. doi:10.1002/9781405164535.ch20
Stewart SL, Celebre A, Hirdes JP, Poss JW. Risk of suicide and self-harm in kids: The development of an algorithm to identify high-risk individuals within the children's mental health system . Child Psychiat Human Develop . 2020;51:913-924. doi:10.1007/s10578-020-00968-9
Rosenbusch H, Soldner F, Evans AM, Zeelenberg M. Supervised machine learning methods in psychology: A practical introduction with annotated R code . Soc Personal Psychol Compass . 2021;15(2):e12579. doi:10.1111/spc3.12579
Mishra S. Decision-making under risk: Integrating perspectives from biology, economics, and psychology . Personal Soc Psychol Rev . 2014;18(3):280-307. doi:10.1177/1088868314530517
Csikszentmihalyi M, Sawyer K. Creative insight: The social dimension of a solitary moment . In: The Systems Model of Creativity . 2015:73-98. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9085-7_7
Chrysikou EG, Motyka K, Nigro C, Yang SI, Thompson-Schill SL. Functional fixedness in creative thinking tasks depends on stimulus modality . Psychol Aesthet Creat Arts . 2016;10(4):425‐435. doi:10.1037/aca0000050
Huang F, Tang S, Hu Z. Unconditional perseveration of the short-term mental set in chunk decomposition . Front Psychol . 2018;9:2568. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02568
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By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
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How to Solve Problems
- Laura Amico
To bring the best ideas forward, teams must build psychological safety.
Teams today aren’t just asked to execute tasks: They’re called upon to solve problems. You’d think that many brains working together would mean better solutions, but the reality is that too often problem-solving teams fall victim to inefficiency, conflict, and cautious conclusions. The two charts below will help your team think about how to collaborate better and come up with the best solutions for the thorniest challenges.
First, think of the last time you had to solve a problem. Maybe it was a big one: A major trade route is blocked and your product is time sensitive and must make it to market on time. Maybe it was a small one: A traffic jam on your way to work means you’re going to be late for your first meeting of the day. Whatever the size of the impact, in solving your problem you moved through five stages, according to “ Why Groups Struggle to Solve Problems Together ,” by Al Pittampalli.
Pittampalli finds that most of us, when working individually, move through these stages intuitively. It’s different when you’re working in a team, however. You need to stop and identify these different stages to make sure the group is aligned. For example, while one colleague might join a problem-solving discussion ready to evaluate assumptions (Stage 3), another might still be defining the problem (Stage 1). By defining each stage of your problem-solving explicitly, you increase the odds of your team coming to better solutions more smoothly.
This problem-solving technique gains extra power when applied to Alison Reynold’s and David Lewis’ research on problem-solving teams. In their article, “ The Two Traits of the Best Problem-Solving Teams ,” they find that highly effective teams typically have a pair of common features: They are cognitively diverse and they are psychologically safe. They also exhibit an array of characteristics associated with learning and confidence; these teammates tend to be curious, experimental, and nurturing, for example.
As you and your colleagues consider these ideas, think about the last problem you had to solve as a team. First, map out what you remember from each step of your problem-solving. Were all of you on the same page at each stage? What aspects of the problem did you consider — or might you have missed — as a result? What can you do differently the next time you have a problem to solve? Second, ask where your team sees themselves on the chart. What kinds of behaviors could your team adopt to help you move into that top-right quadrant?
- Laura Amico is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review.
Lean Events and Training / Forms and Templates
Forms and Templates
Downloads for A3 problem solving, standard work , project management, and value stream mapping .
Problem Solving Templates
A3 Action Plan Form (from Getting the Right Things Done)
- The action plan template helps define the who, what, when, where, and how of a plan on one page.
- Helps track progress and highlight problems so action can be taken.
A3 Status Review Form (from Getting the Right Things Done)
- Top box provides an overview with respect to our critical end-of-pipe metrics.
- Second box provides an overview of activities, and usually reflects what’s been prescribed on the action plan of the right side of the strategy A3.
A3 Strategy Form (from Getting the Right Things Done)
- A strategy A3 is a one-page storyboard on 11-inch by 17-inch paper that helps tell the strategy “story.”
- Logic flows from top left to bottom right, and each box leads to the next one.
Detailed A3 Template (from Managing to Learn)
- Print this A3 template out to remind you of each section of the problem-solving A3 as you are creating your own.
PDSA A3 Template (from On the Mend)
- A3 Template, in Excel, following the PDSA cycle.
Problem Definition Worksheet
- This worksheet can help you breakdown the problem into a clearly defined gap as well as see how the problem aligns to the needs of the business or your True North purpose.
Root Cause Template
- This template gives you space to record the problem as well as the direct causes and underlying causes.
Four Types of Problems
Managing to Learn: Using the A3 management process
Perfecting Patient Journeys
Beau Keyte , Tom Shuker and Judy Worth
Getting the Right Things Done
Standard Work Templates
Standard Work Operator Balance Chart (OBC)
- The operator balance chart helps create continuous flow in a multi-step, multi-operator process by distributing operator work elements in relation to takt time.
Standard Work Process Study Sheet
- The Process Study Sheet is used to define and record the time for work elements in a process.
Standard Work Production Analysis Board
- A Production Analysis Board is a display that must be located at the exit of the cell (or the line) to show actual performance compared with planned performance on an hourly basis.
Standard Work Skills Training Matrix
- The Skills Training Matrix shows the required and attained skills of every operator.
- The training schedule also should be shown.
Standardized Work Chart
- The standardized work chart shows operator movement and material location in relation to the machine and overall process layout.
- It should show takt time, work sequence, and standard WIP.
Standardized Work Combination Table
- The standardized work combination table shows the combination of manual work time, walk time, and machine processing time for each operation in a production sequence.
- This form is a more precise process design tool than the Operator Balance Chart.
- It can be very helpful to identify the waste of waiting and overburden, and to confirm standard.
Standardized Work Job Instruction Sheet
- The job instruction sheet is used to train new operations.
- It lists the steps of the job, detailing any special knack that may be required to perform the job safely with utmost quality and efficiency.
- It can also be useful for experienced operators to reconfirm the right operations.
Standardized Work Process Capacity Sheet
- The Process Capacity Chart is used to calculate the capacity of each machine to confirm true capacity and to identify and eliminate bottlenecks.
- Processing capacity per shift will be calculated from the available production time, completion time, and tool-change time (and other factors as necessary) for each work piece.
Waste Walk Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- Taking a “waste walk” is one way to make the waste visible again.
- A waste walk is simply a planned visit to where work is being performed to observe what’s happening and to note the waste. It differs from go-see activities in that you are specifically looking for waste.
Toshiko Narusawa and John Shook
Lean Lexicon 5th Edition
Lean Enterprise Institute
Training Within Industry (TWI) Templates and Downloads
8-step TWI problem solving card - as presented by IBM
- 8-steps to problem solving handy pocket card printable.
Solving Problems with TWI
- Solving problems with TWI deployment graphic.
Template of Job Breakdown Sheet
- Job breakdown sheets are created to list the steps and highlight the main factors or key points that go into completing a job.
- It also provides reasons for these key points.
TWI Job Instruction Card
- TWI Job Instruction card in a handy pocket printable.
TWI Job Methods Card
- TWI Job Methods Card in a handy pocket printable.
TWI Job Relations Card
- TWI Job Relations Card in a handy pocket printable.
James (Jim) Womack, PhD and Dan Jones
Lean Thinking, 2nd Edition
Project Management Templates
Master Schedule and Action Plan Template for One Goal (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- Use this template in your project tracking center so you can track both goals and action items on the same form.
End of Project Review Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- The following template will help you capture your end-of-project reflections and make decisions about what to do next.
Master Schedule Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- This template will help you answer this question by letting you include the project goals with space to indicate whether each goal is on track as originally planned and whether the scheduled progress review has taken place.
Team Board Form (from Getting the Right Things Done)
- A team board is a window on both routine and improvement work.
- The board on this template addresses both daily production and strategic issues, and is organized according to SQDCM—safety, quality, delivery, cost, and morale.
Value Proposition Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- Align the stakeholders around what will be included in addressing the problem,
- Identify the stakeholders who will be added to the project team and actively engaged in creating the current- and future-state value-stream maps,
- Identify additional stakeholders necessary to drive the implementation of the future state,
- Serve as an agreement—a proof of consensus—on the specific problem to be solved, and with the problem statement serve as authorization for the entire project.
Action Planning Template (from Perfecting Patient Journeys)
- Identify the specific changes that need to be made and translate those changes into clearly stated goals and actions (i.e., the means) to achieve those goals.
- Identify the specific methods and action steps you think will help you achieve the goals. These action steps and targets constitute the action plan to achieve a specific goal.
Value-Stream Mapping Templates
Value-stream Mapping Icons for Excel
- At the request of some of our readers we have posted the most commonly used mapping icons so that they can be downloaded for Excel spreadsheets.
Learning to See
Mike Rother and John Shook
VSM Getting Started Set
Lean Enterprise Institute , Mike Rother and John Shook
Mapping to See: Value-Stream Improvement Workshop
Beau Keyte , Jim Luckman , Kirk Paluska , Guy Parsons , John Shook , Tom Shuker and David Verble
Improvement Kata / Coaching Kata
Improvement Kata Learner's Storyboard
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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Describe problem solving strategies
- Define algorithm and heuristic
- Explain some common roadblocks to effective problem solving
People face problems every day—usually, multiple problems throughout the day. Sometimes these problems are straightforward: To double a recipe for pizza dough, for example, all that is required is that each ingredient in the recipe be doubled. Sometimes, however, the problems we encounter are more complex. For example, say you have a work deadline, and you must mail a printed copy of a report to your supervisor by the end of the business day. The report is time-sensitive and must be sent overnight. You finished the report last night, but your printer will not work today. What should you do? First, you need to identify the problem and then apply a strategy for solving the problem.
The study of human and animal problem solving processes has provided much insight toward the understanding of our conscious experience and led to advancements in computer science and artificial intelligence. Essentially much of cognitive science today represents studies of how we consciously and unconsciously make decisions and solve problems. For instance, when encountered with a large amount of information, how do we go about making decisions about the most efficient way of sorting and analyzing all the information in order to find what you are looking for as in visual search paradigms in cognitive psychology. Or in a situation where a piece of machinery is not working properly, how do we go about organizing how to address the issue and understand what the cause of the problem might be. How do we sort the procedures that will be needed and focus attention on what is important in order to solve problems efficiently. Within this section we will discuss some of these issues and examine processes related to human, animal and computer problem solving.
When people are presented with a problem—whether it is a complex mathematical problem or a broken printer, how do you solve it? Before finding a solution to the problem, the problem must first be clearly identified. After that, one of many problem solving strategies can be applied, hopefully resulting in a solution.
Problems themselves can be classified into two different categories known as ill-defined and well-defined problems (Schacter, 2009). Ill-defined problems represent issues that do not have clear goals, solution paths, or expected solutions whereas well-defined problems have specific goals, clearly defined solutions, and clear expected solutions. Problem solving often incorporates pragmatics (logical reasoning) and semantics (interpretation of meanings behind the problem), and also in many cases require abstract thinking and creativity in order to find novel solutions. Within psychology, problem solving refers to a motivational drive for reading a definite “goal” from a present situation or condition that is either not moving toward that goal, is distant from it, or requires more complex logical analysis for finding a missing description of conditions or steps toward that goal. Processes relating to problem solving include problem finding also known as problem analysis, problem shaping where the organization of the problem occurs, generating alternative strategies, implementation of attempted solutions, and verification of the selected solution. Various methods of studying problem solving exist within the field of psychology including introspection, behavior analysis and behaviorism, simulation, computer modeling, and experimentation.
A problem-solving strategy is a plan of action used to find a solution. Different strategies have different action plans associated with them (table below). For example, a well-known strategy is trial and error. The old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” describes trial and error. In terms of your broken printer, you could try checking the ink levels, and if that doesn’t work, you could check to make sure the paper tray isn’t jammed. Or maybe the printer isn’t actually connected to your laptop. When using trial and error, you would continue to try different solutions until you solved your problem. Although trial and error is not typically one of the most time-efficient strategies, it is a commonly used one.
Another type of strategy is an algorithm. An algorithm is a problem-solving formula that provides you with step-by-step instructions used to achieve a desired outcome (Kahneman, 2011). You can think of an algorithm as a recipe with highly detailed instructions that produce the same result every time they are performed. Algorithms are used frequently in our everyday lives, especially in computer science. When you run a search on the Internet, search engines like Google use algorithms to decide which entries will appear first in your list of results. Facebook also uses algorithms to decide which posts to display on your newsfeed. Can you identify other situations in which algorithms are used?
A heuristic is another type of problem solving strategy. While an algorithm must be followed exactly to produce a correct result, a heuristic is a general problem-solving framework (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). You can think of these as mental shortcuts that are used to solve problems. A “rule of thumb” is an example of a heuristic. Such a rule saves the person time and energy when making a decision, but despite its time-saving characteristics, it is not always the best method for making a rational decision. Different types of heuristics are used in different types of situations, but the impulse to use a heuristic occurs when one of five conditions is met (Pratkanis, 1989):
- When one is faced with too much information
- When the time to make a decision is limited
- When the decision to be made is unimportant
- When there is access to very little information to use in making the decision
- When an appropriate heuristic happens to come to mind in the same moment
Working backwards is a useful heuristic in which you begin solving the problem by focusing on the end result. Consider this example: You live in Washington, D.C. and have been invited to a wedding at 4 PM on Saturday in Philadelphia. Knowing that Interstate 95 tends to back up any day of the week, you need to plan your route and time your departure accordingly. If you want to be at the wedding service by 3:30 PM, and it takes 2.5 hours to get to Philadelphia without traffic, what time should you leave your house? You use the working backwards heuristic to plan the events of your day on a regular basis, probably without even thinking about it.
Another useful heuristic is the practice of accomplishing a large goal or task by breaking it into a series of smaller steps. Students often use this common method to complete a large research project or long essay for school. For example, students typically brainstorm, develop a thesis or main topic, research the chosen topic, organize their information into an outline, write a rough draft, revise and edit the rough draft, develop a final draft, organize the references list, and proofread their work before turning in the project. The large task becomes less overwhelming when it is broken down into a series of small steps.
Further problem solving strategies have been identified (listed below) that incorporate flexible and creative thinking in order to reach solutions efficiently.
Additional Problem Solving Strategies :
- Abstraction – refers to solving the problem within a model of the situation before applying it to reality.
- Analogy – is using a solution that solves a similar problem.
- Brainstorming – refers to collecting an analyzing a large amount of solutions, especially within a group of people, to combine the solutions and developing them until an optimal solution is reached.
- Divide and conquer – breaking down large complex problems into smaller more manageable problems.
- Hypothesis testing – method used in experimentation where an assumption about what would happen in response to manipulating an independent variable is made, and analysis of the affects of the manipulation are made and compared to the original hypothesis.
- Lateral thinking – approaching problems indirectly and creatively by viewing the problem in a new and unusual light.
- Means-ends analysis – choosing and analyzing an action at a series of smaller steps to move closer to the goal.
- Method of focal objects – putting seemingly non-matching characteristics of different procedures together to make something new that will get you closer to the goal.
- Morphological analysis – analyzing the outputs of and interactions of many pieces that together make up a whole system.
- Proof – trying to prove that a problem cannot be solved. Where the proof fails becomes the starting point or solving the problem.
- Reduction – adapting the problem to be as similar problems where a solution exists.
- Research – using existing knowledge or solutions to similar problems to solve the problem.
- Root cause analysis – trying to identify the cause of the problem.
The strategies listed above outline a short summary of methods we use in working toward solutions and also demonstrate how the mind works when being faced with barriers preventing goals to be reached.
One example of means-end analysis can be found by using the Tower of Hanoi paradigm . This paradigm can be modeled as a word problems as demonstrated by the Missionary-Cannibal Problem :
Three missionaries and three cannibals are on one side of a river and need to cross to the other side. The only means of crossing is a boat, and the boat can only hold two people at a time. Your goal is to devise a set of moves that will transport all six of the people across the river, being in mind the following constraint: The number of cannibals can never exceed the number of missionaries in any location. Remember that someone will have to also row that boat back across each time.
Hint : At one point in your solution, you will have to send more people back to the original side than you just sent to the destination.
The actual Tower of Hanoi problem consists of three rods sitting vertically on a base with a number of disks of different sizes that can slide onto any rod. The puzzle starts with the disks in a neat stack in ascending order of size on one rod, the smallest at the top making a conical shape. The objective of the puzzle is to move the entire stack to another rod obeying the following rules:
- 1. Only one disk can be moved at a time.
- 2. Each move consists of taking the upper disk from one of the stacks and placing it on top of another stack or on an empty rod.
- 3. No disc may be placed on top of a smaller disk.
Figure 7.02. Steps for solving the Tower of Hanoi in the minimum number of moves when there are 3 disks.
Figure 7.03. Graphical representation of nodes (circles) and moves (lines) of Tower of Hanoi.
The Tower of Hanoi is a frequently used psychological technique to study problem solving and procedure analysis. A variation of the Tower of Hanoi known as the Tower of London has been developed which has been an important tool in the neuropsychological diagnosis of executive function disorders and their treatment.
GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY AND PROBLEM SOLVING
As you may recall from the sensation and perception chapter, Gestalt psychology describes whole patterns, forms and configurations of perception and cognition such as closure, good continuation, and figure-ground. In addition to patterns of perception, Wolfgang Kohler, a German Gestalt psychologist traveled to the Spanish island of Tenerife in order to study animals behavior and problem solving in the anthropoid ape.
As an interesting side note to Kohler’s studies of chimp problem solving, Dr. Ronald Ley, professor of psychology at State University of New York provides evidence in his book A Whisper of Espionage (1990) suggesting that while collecting data for what would later be his book The Mentality of Apes (1925) on Tenerife in the Canary Islands between 1914 and 1920, Kohler was additionally an active spy for the German government alerting Germany to ships that were sailing around the Canary Islands. Ley suggests his investigations in England, Germany and elsewhere in Europe confirm that Kohler had served in the German military by building, maintaining and operating a concealed radio that contributed to Germany’s war effort acting as a strategic outpost in the Canary Islands that could monitor naval military activity approaching the north African coast.
While trapped on the island over the course of World War 1, Kohler applied Gestalt principles to animal perception in order to understand how they solve problems. He recognized that the apes on the islands also perceive relations between stimuli and the environment in Gestalt patterns and understand these patterns as wholes as opposed to pieces that make up a whole. Kohler based his theories of animal intelligence on the ability to understand relations between stimuli, and spent much of his time while trapped on the island investigation what he described as insight , the sudden perception of useful or proper relations. In order to study insight in animals, Kohler would present problems to chimpanzee’s by hanging some banana’s or some kind of food so it was suspended higher than the apes could reach. Within the room, Kohler would arrange a variety of boxes, sticks or other tools the chimpanzees could use by combining in patterns or organizing in a way that would allow them to obtain the food (Kohler & Winter, 1925).
While viewing the chimpanzee’s, Kohler noticed one chimp that was more efficient at solving problems than some of the others. The chimp, named Sultan, was able to use long poles to reach through bars and organize objects in specific patterns to obtain food or other desirables that were originally out of reach. In order to study insight within these chimps, Kohler would remove objects from the room to systematically make the food more difficult to obtain. As the story goes, after removing many of the objects Sultan was used to using to obtain the food, he sat down ad sulked for a while, and then suddenly got up going over to two poles lying on the ground. Without hesitation Sultan put one pole inside the end of the other creating a longer pole that he could use to obtain the food demonstrating an ideal example of what Kohler described as insight. In another situation, Sultan discovered how to stand on a box to reach a banana that was suspended from the rafters illustrating Sultan’s perception of relations and the importance of insight in problem solving.
Grande (another chimp in the group studied by Kohler) builds a three-box structure to reach the bananas, while Sultan watches from the ground. Insight , sometimes referred to as an “Ah-ha” experience, was the term Kohler used for the sudden perception of useful relations among objects during problem solving (Kohler, 1927; Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2013).
Problem-solving abilities can improve with practice. Many people challenge themselves every day with puzzles and other mental exercises to sharpen their problem-solving skills. Sudoku puzzles appear daily in most newspapers. Typically, a sudoku puzzle is a 9×9 grid. The simple sudoku below (see figure) is a 4×4 grid. To solve the puzzle, fill in the empty boxes with a single digit: 1, 2, 3, or 4. Here are the rules: The numbers must total 10 in each bolded box, each row, and each column; however, each digit can only appear once in a bolded box, row, and column. Time yourself as you solve this puzzle and compare your time with a classmate.
How long did it take you to solve this sudoku puzzle? (You can see the answer at the end of this section.)
Here is another popular type of puzzle (figure below) that challenges your spatial reasoning skills. Connect all nine dots with four connecting straight lines without lifting your pencil from the paper:
Did you figure it out? (The answer is at the end of this section.) Once you understand how to crack this puzzle, you won’t forget.
Take a look at the “Puzzling Scales” logic puzzle below (figure below). Sam Loyd, a well-known puzzle master, created and refined countless puzzles throughout his lifetime (Cyclopedia of Puzzles, n.d.).
What steps did you take to solve this puzzle? You can read the solution at the end of this section.
Pitfalls to problem solving.
Not all problems are successfully solved, however. What challenges stop us from successfully solving a problem? Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Imagine a person in a room that has four doorways. One doorway that has always been open in the past is now locked. The person, accustomed to exiting the room by that particular doorway, keeps trying to get out through the same doorway even though the other three doorways are open. The person is stuck—but she just needs to go to another doorway, instead of trying to get out through the locked doorway. A mental set is where you persist in approaching a problem in a way that has worked in the past but is clearly not working now.
Functional fixedness is a type of mental set where you cannot perceive an object being used for something other than what it was designed for. During the Apollo 13 mission to the moon, NASA engineers at Mission Control had to overcome functional fixedness to save the lives of the astronauts aboard the spacecraft. An explosion in a module of the spacecraft damaged multiple systems. The astronauts were in danger of being poisoned by rising levels of carbon dioxide because of problems with the carbon dioxide filters. The engineers found a way for the astronauts to use spare plastic bags, tape, and air hoses to create a makeshift air filter, which saved the lives of the astronauts.
Researchers have investigated whether functional fixedness is affected by culture. In one experiment, individuals from the Shuar group in Ecuador were asked to use an object for a purpose other than that for which the object was originally intended. For example, the participants were told a story about a bear and a rabbit that were separated by a river and asked to select among various objects, including a spoon, a cup, erasers, and so on, to help the animals. The spoon was the only object long enough to span the imaginary river, but if the spoon was presented in a way that reflected its normal usage, it took participants longer to choose the spoon to solve the problem. (German & Barrett, 2005). The researchers wanted to know if exposure to highly specialized tools, as occurs with individuals in industrialized nations, affects their ability to transcend functional fixedness. It was determined that functional fixedness is experienced in both industrialized and nonindustrialized cultures (German & Barrett, 2005).
In order to make good decisions, we use our knowledge and our reasoning. Often, this knowledge and reasoning is sound and solid. Sometimes, however, we are swayed by biases or by others manipulating a situation. For example, let’s say you and three friends wanted to rent a house and had a combined target budget of $1,600. The realtor shows you only very run-down houses for $1,600 and then shows you a very nice house for $2,000. Might you ask each person to pay more in rent to get the $2,000 home? Why would the realtor show you the run-down houses and the nice house? The realtor may be challenging your anchoring bias. An anchoring bias occurs when you focus on one piece of information when making a decision or solving a problem. In this case, you’re so focused on the amount of money you are willing to spend that you may not recognize what kinds of houses are available at that price point.
The confirmation bias is the tendency to focus on information that confirms your existing beliefs. For example, if you think that your professor is not very nice, you notice all of the instances of rude behavior exhibited by the professor while ignoring the countless pleasant interactions he is involved in on a daily basis. Hindsight bias leads you to believe that the event you just experienced was predictable, even though it really wasn’t. In other words, you knew all along that things would turn out the way they did. Representative bias describes a faulty way of thinking, in which you unintentionally stereotype someone or something; for example, you may assume that your professors spend their free time reading books and engaging in intellectual conversation, because the idea of them spending their time playing volleyball or visiting an amusement park does not fit in with your stereotypes of professors.
Finally, the availability heuristic is a heuristic in which you make a decision based on an example, information, or recent experience that is that readily available to you, even though it may not be the best example to inform your decision . Biases tend to “preserve that which is already established—to maintain our preexisting knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and hypotheses” (Aronson, 1995; Kahneman, 2011). These biases are summarized in the table below.
Were you able to determine how many marbles are needed to balance the scales in the figure below? You need nine. Were you able to solve the problems in the figures above? Here are the answers.
Many different strategies exist for solving problems. Typical strategies include trial and error, applying algorithms, and using heuristics. To solve a large, complicated problem, it often helps to break the problem into smaller steps that can be accomplished individually, leading to an overall solution. Roadblocks to problem solving include a mental set, functional fixedness, and various biases that can cloud decision making skills.
Openstax Psychology text by Kathryn Dumper, William Jenkins, Arlene Lacombe, Marilyn Lovett and Marion Perlmutter licensed under CC BY v4.0. https://openstax.org/details/books/psychology
1. A specific formula for solving a problem is called ________.
a. an algorithm
b. a heuristic
c. a mental set
d. trial and error
2. Solving the Tower of Hanoi problem tends to utilize a ________ strategy of problem solving.
a. divide and conquer
b. means-end analysis
3. A mental shortcut in the form of a general problem-solving framework is called ________.
4. Which type of bias involves becoming fixated on a single trait of a problem?
a. anchoring bias
b. confirmation bias
c. representative bias
d. availability bias
5. Which type of bias involves relying on a false stereotype to make a decision?
6. Wolfgang Kohler analyzed behavior of chimpanzees by applying Gestalt principles to describe ________.
a. social adjustment
b. student load payment options
c. emotional learning
d. insight learning
7. ________ is a type of mental set where you cannot perceive an object being used for something other than what it was designed for.
a. functional fixedness
c. working memory
Critical Thinking Questions:
1. What is functional fixedness and how can overcoming it help you solve problems?
2. How does an algorithm save you time and energy when solving a problem?
Personal Application Question:
1. Which type of bias do you recognize in your own decision making processes? How has this bias affected how you’ve made decisions in the past and how can you use your awareness of it to improve your decisions making skills in the future?
trial and error
Answers to Exercises
algorithm: problem-solving strategy characterized by a specific set of instructions
anchoring bias: faulty heuristic in which you fixate on a single aspect of a problem to find a solution
availability heuristic: faulty heuristic in which you make a decision based on information readily available to you
confirmation bias: faulty heuristic in which you focus on information that confirms your beliefs
functional fixedness: inability to see an object as useful for any other use other than the one for which it was intended
heuristic: mental shortcut that saves time when solving a problem
hindsight bias: belief that the event just experienced was predictable, even though it really wasn’t
mental set: continually using an old solution to a problem without results
problem-solving strategy: method for solving problems
representative bias: faulty heuristic in which you stereotype someone or something without a valid basis for your judgment
trial and error: problem-solving strategy in which multiple solutions are attempted until the correct one is found
working backwards: heuristic in which you begin to solve a problem by focusing on the end result
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Module 1: Problem Solving Strategies
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Unlike exercises, there is never a simple recipe for solving a problem. You can get better and better at solving problems, both by building up your background knowledge and by simply practicing. As you solve more problems (and learn how other people solved them), you learn strategies and techniques that can be useful. But no single strategy works every time.
Pólya’s How to Solve It
George Pólya was a great champion in the field of teaching effective problem solving skills. He was born in Hungary in 1887, received his Ph.D. at the University of Budapest, and was a professor at Stanford University (among other universities). He wrote many mathematical papers along with three books, most famously, “How to Solve it.” Pólya died at the age 98 in 1985.1
1. Image of Pólya by Thane Plambeck from Palo Alto, California (Flickr) [CC BY
In 1945, Pólya published the short book How to Solve It , which gave a four-step method for solving mathematical problems:
First, you have to understand the problem.
After understanding, then make a plan.
Carry out the plan.
Look back on your work. How could it be better?
This is all well and good, but how do you actually do these steps?!?! Steps 1. and 2. are particularly mysterious! How do you “make a plan?” That is where you need some tools in your toolbox, and some experience to draw upon.
Much has been written since 1945 to explain these steps in more detail, but the truth is that they are more art than science. This is where math becomes a creative endeavor (and where it becomes so much fun). We will articulate some useful problem solving strategies, but no such list will ever be complete. This is really just a start to help you on your way. The best way to become a skilled problem solver is to learn the background material well, and then to solve a lot of problems!
Problem Solving Strategy 1 (Guess and Test)
Make a guess and test to see if it satisfies the demands of the problem. If it doesn't, alter the guess appropriately and check again. Keep doing this until you find a solution.
Mr. Jones has a total of 25 chickens and cows on his farm. How many of each does he have if all together there are 76 feet?
Step 1: Understanding the problem
We are given in the problem that there are 25 chickens and cows.
All together there are 76 feet.
Chickens have 2 feet and cows have 4 feet.
We are trying to determine how many cows and how many chickens Mr. Jones has on his farm.
Step 2: Devise a plan
Going to use Guess and test along with making a tab
Many times the strategy below is used with guess and test.
Make a table and look for a pattern:
Procedure: Make a table reflecting the data in the problem. If done in an orderly way, such a table will often reveal patterns and relationships that suggest how the problem can be solved.
Step 3: Carry out the plan:
Notice we are going in the wrong direction! The total number of feet is decreasing!
Better! The total number of feet are increasing!
Step 4: Looking back:
Check: 12 + 13 = 25 heads
24 + 52 = 76 feet.
We have found the solution to this problem. I could use this strategy when there are a limited number of possible answers and when two items are the same but they have one characteristic that is different.
Videos to watch:
1. Click on this link to see an example of “Guess and Test”
2. Click on this link to see another example of Guess and Test.
Check in question 1:
Place the digits 8, 10, 11, 12, and 13 in the circles to make the sums across and vertically equal 31. (5 points)
Check in question 2:
Old McDonald has 250 chickens and goats in the barnyard. Altogether there are 760 feet . How many of each animal does he have? Make sure you use Polya’s 4 problem solving steps. (12 points)
Problem Solving Strategy 2 (Draw a Picture). Some problems are obviously about a geometric situation, and it is clear you want to draw a picture and mark down all of the given information before you try to solve it. But even for a problem that is not geometric thinking visually can help!
Videos to watch demonstrating how to use "Draw a Picture".
1. Click on this link to see an example of “Draw a Picture”
2. Click on this link to see another example of Draw a Picture.
Problem Solving Strategy 3 ( Using a variable to find the sum of a sequence.)
Gauss's strategy for sequences.
last term = fixed number ( n -1) + first term
The fix number is the the amount each term is increasing or decreasing by. "n" is the number of terms you have. You can use this formula to find the last term in the sequence or the number of terms you have in a sequence.
Ex: 2, 5, 8, ... Find the 200th term.
Last term = 3(200-1) +2
Last term is 599.
To find the sum of a sequence: sum = [(first term + last term) (number of terms)]/ 2
Sum = (2 + 599) (200) then divide by 2
Sum = 60,100
Check in question 3: (10 points)
Find the 320 th term of 7, 10, 13, 16 …
Then find the sum of the first 320 terms.
Problem Solving Strategy 4 (Working Backwards)
This is considered a strategy in many schools. If you are given an answer, and the steps that were taken to arrive at that answer, you should be able to determine the starting point.
Videos to watch demonstrating of “Working Backwards”
Karen is thinking of a number. If you double it, and subtract 7, you obtain 11. What is Karen’s number?
1. We start with 11 and work backwards.
2. The opposite of subtraction is addition. We will add 7 to 11. We are now at 18.
3. The opposite of doubling something is dividing by 2. 18/2 = 9
4. This should be our answer. Looking back:
9 x 2 = 18 -7 = 11
5. We have the right answer.
Check in question 4:
Christina is thinking of a number.
If you multiply her number by 93, add 6, and divide by 3, you obtain 436. What is her number? Solve this problem by working backwards. (5 points)
Problem Solving Strategy 5 (Looking for a Pattern)
Definition: A sequence is a pattern involving an ordered arrangement of numbers.
We first need to find a pattern.
Ask yourself as you search for a pattern – are the numbers growing steadily larger? Steadily smaller? How is each number related?
Example 1: 1, 4, 7, 10, 13…
Find the next 2 numbers. The pattern is each number is increasing by 3. The next two numbers would be 16 and 19.
Example 2: 1, 4, 9, 16 … find the next 2 numbers. It looks like each successive number is increase by the next odd number. 1 + 3 = 4.
So the next number would be
25 + 11 = 36
Example 3: 10, 7, 4, 1, -2… find the next 2 numbers.
In this sequence, the numbers are decreasing by 3. So the next 2 numbers would be -2 -3 = -5
-5 – 3 = -8
Example 4: 1, 2, 4, 8 … find the next two numbers.
This example is a little bit harder. The numbers are increasing but not by a constant. Maybe a factor?
So each number is being multiplied by 2.
16 x 2 = 32
1. Click on this link to see an example of “Looking for a Pattern”
2. Click on this link to see another example of Looking for a Pattern.
Problem Solving Strategy 6 (Make a List)
Example 1 : Can perfect squares end in a 2 or a 3?
List all the squares of the numbers 1 to 20.
1 4 9 16 25 36 49 64 81 100 121 144 169 196 225 256 289 324 361 400.
Now look at the number in the ones digits. Notice they are 0, 1, 4, 5, 6, or 9. Notice none of the perfect squares end in 2, 3, 7, or 8. This list suggests that perfect squares cannot end in a 2, 3, 7 or 8.
How many different amounts of money can you have in your pocket if you have only three coins including only dimes and quarters?
0 3 30 cents
1 2 45 cents
2 1 60 cents
3 0 75 cents
Videos demonstrating "Make a List"
Check in question 5:
How many ways can you make change for 23 cents using only pennies, nickels, and dimes? (10 points)
Problem Solving Strategy 7 (Solve a Simpler Problem)
How would we find the nth term?
Solve a simpler problem:
1, 3, 9, 27.
1. To get from 1 to 3 what did we do?
2. To get from 3 to 9 what did we do?
Let’s set up a table:
Term Number what did we do
Looking back: How would you find the nth term?
Find the 10 th term of the above sequence.
Let L = the tenth term
Problem Solving Strategy 8 (Process of Elimination)
This strategy can be used when there is only one possible solution.
I’m thinking of a number.
The number is odd.
It is more than 1 but less than 100.
It is greater than 20.
It is less than 5 times 7.
The sum of the digits is 7.
It is evenly divisible by 5.
a. We know it is an odd number between 1 and 100.
b. It is greater than 20 but less than 35
21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33, 35. These are the possibilities.
c. The sum of the digits is 7
21 (2+1=3) No 23 (2+3 = 5) No 25 (2 + 5= 7) Yes Using the same process we see there are no other numbers that meet this criteria. Also we notice 25 is divisible by 5. By using the strategy elimination, we have found our answer.
Check in question 6: (8 points)
Jose is thinking of a number.
The number is not odd.
The sum of the digits is divisible by 2.
The number is a multiple of 11.
It is greater than 5 times 4.
It is a multiple of 6
It is less than 7 times 8 +23
What is the number?
Click on this link for a quick review of the problem solving strategies.
Problem Solving Strategies by Arthur Engel Topics Problems, Mathematics, Olympiad Collection opensource Language English Problem-Solving Strategies is a unique collection of competition problems from over twenty major national and international mathematical competitions for high school students.
claim to be problem-driven but are in fact solution-driven. They define their problem as the lack of a preferred solution which often leads to standardized interventions that never address the root causes of the problem. PDIA is about building capability to solve problems through the process of solving good problems. A good problem is one that:
PEL-083 A PELP Problem-Solving Approach . 2 . Teams rarely move through each step sequentially, and might get stuck and revisit earlier steps throughout the process. However, each step is critical to improving system-wide performance. Steps . Identify the Problem. The first and most critical step of solving a performance problem is to
can use problem solving to teach the skills of mathematics, and how prob-lem solving should be presented to their students. They must understand that problem solving can be thought of in three different ways: 1. Problem solving is a subject for study in and of itself. 2. Problem solving is an approach to a particular problem. 3.
Problem-solving strategies From Problems and Solutions in Introductory Mechanics (Draft version, August 2014) David Morin, [email protected] TO THE READER: This book is available as both a paperback and an eBook. I have made a few chapters available on the web, but it is possible (based on past experience) that a pirated
Here's how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team: 1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions. A good place to start is to ask journalistic questions, like: Who: Who is involved with this problem? Who caused the problem?
Here are some examples of problem-solving strategies you can practice using to see which works best for you in different situations: 1. Define the problem Taking the time to define a potential challenge can help you identify certain elements to create a plan to resolve them.
STRATEGIES FOR SOLVING PROBLEMS problem is in fact solvable), so you can go searching for it. It might be a conservation law, or an F = ma equation, etc. 3. Solve things symbolically. If you are solving a problem where the given quantities are speciﬂed numerically, you should immediately change the numbers to letters and solve the problem in ...
The problem-solving process involves: Discovery of the problem Deciding to tackle the issue Seeking to understand the problem more fully Researching available options or solutions Taking action to resolve the issue Before problem-solving can occur, it is important to first understand the exact nature of the problem itself.
MATH PROBLEM SOLVERS THINK STRATEGICALLY -Response Here are some strategies to solve a math problem. These strategies begin with Math Practice Standard 1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. They all start with read the problem carefully to figure out what it asks. Read each sentence carefully to make sure you comprehend it.
You need to stop and identify these different stages to make sure the group is aligned. For example, while one colleague might join a problem-solving discussion ready to evaluate assumptions...
of problem solving. Evolutionary flexon Evolutionary algorithms have won games of chess and solved huge optimization problems that overwhelm most computational resources. Their success rests on the power of generating diversity by introducing randomness and parallelization into the search procedure and quickly filtering out suboptimal solutions.
(PDF) Problem Solving Strategies Problem Solving Strategies Authors: Fons Vernooij Abstract Problem-based learning requires the development of problem solving skills. Therefor cognitive...
Problems become more difficult when there is no obvious solution and strategies that you have tried in the past don't work. These types of problems cause a great deal of stress and anxiety, and they require a new and different strategy. The Steps to Solving Daily Life Problems Step 1: Is there a problem?
Handbook on Problem-solving Skills 5 2 Causes of Poor Problem-Solving Ineffective or poor problem-solving can be the result of any of the following factors. These factors act like blinkers, constricting the perspective of person in the process of problem-solving. 1. Bounded Rationality: Propounded by Herbert Simon, the concept of bounded
We use these clues to write an equation. Number problems don't usually arise on an everyday basis, but they provide a good introduction to practicing the problem solving strategy outlined above. Exercise 3.1.7. The difference of a number and six is 13. Find the number.
and solve problems using quantitative, or mathematical, methods. Generally, there are three basic steps in solving a mathematics problem: • Step 1: Understand the problem • Step 2: Carry out a strategy for solving the problem • Step 3: Check your answer Here is a description of the three steps, followed by a list of useful strategies for ...
A3 Strategy Form (from Getting the Right Things Done) A strategy A3 is a one-page storyboard on 11-inch by 17-inch paper that helps tell the strategy "story.". Logic flows from top left to bottom right, and each box leads to the next one. Download.
Various methods of studying problem solving exist within the field of psychology including introspection, behavior analysis and behaviorism, simulation, computer modeling, and experimentation. A problem-solving strategy is a plan of action used to find a solution. Different strategies have different action plans associated with them (table below).
As mentioned above, every field uses problem solving and each field has a different perspective on how problem solving works for them. This section covers a few definitions of problem solving in four most common fields. Psychology Problem solving is used in psychology to try and obtain solutions to problems dealing with mental health.
Problem Solving Strategies | PDF 67% (3) 925 views 415 pages Problem Solving Strategies Original Title: problem solving strategies Uploaded by Any Trisetyorini Description: its good to increase your math ability Copyright: Attribution Non-Commercial (BY-NC) Available Formats Download as PDF or read online from Scribd Flag for inappropriate content
Step 2: Devise a plan. Going to use Guess and test along with making a tab. Many times the strategy below is used with guess and test. Make a table and look for a pattern: Procedure: Make a table reflecting the data in the problem.