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Article Summary: Once you solve the problem you thought was impossible using this plan, then you will find all problems easier to solve in the future. This plan takes practice and once you have mastered it, you will no longer need to write it down as you develop your own problem solving technique.

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An Impossible Math Problem! What Do You Do?

When you think that a math problem is impossible to solve, you wonder what I should do. You can do several things, for example: ask for help from you teacher, ask a fellow student, or just give up. Well you really do not have to do any of these, along as you learn how to develop a plan for problem solving. This plan will work regardless of how difficult a problem may be. You first write the following procedures down somewhere until you master this recommended problem solving plan.

To begin with you need to learn how to develop a planning strategy and once you have mastered the strategy, math problems will not be so complicated anymore. Let's take a look at a problem solving outline or plan. The first thing that you need to do is identify all the needed information in the problem. You can do this by looking for clues:

  • Read the problem carefully to look for clues that will help you find the answer
  • Underline or write important words on another piece of paper which provides keys to solving the problem, such as: difference, sum, product, perimeter, etc.
  • What important facts are provided in the problem to help you develop your plan, such as: divided equally, 14 of one type and 12 of another, etc.
  • What information do you need to find to solve the problem, such as: how many will each have, the total will be, everyone gets a red, yellow, and orange, etc.
  • You can use mathematical symbols to replace clue words in the problem, such as: difference is a"-," product is an "x," etc.
  • Read closely to find any information not necessary to solve the problem.

Once you have done this, develop a strategy or plan how to solve the problem. This can be accomplished by:

  • Drawing a model, table, diagram, Venn diagram, chart, sketches, etc of the provided in the problem.
  • You can make a physical model of the problem using such things as base ten blocks, colored cubes, geometric shapes, geoboards, etc.
  • Drawing patterns that represent the information to help sort important information from distracting information in the problem.
  • See if you can make a connection to other subject areas, such as science, art, music, tech ed, etc.
  • Ask yourself have you every seen a problem like this before, if yes then how did you solve the problem.
  • You can also rewrite the problem to help identify key terms, clue words, and to help eliminate distracting information.

After you have completed developing your plan for solving the problem, carry out the plan. Once you have the problem solved, carry out the next steps:

  • Does your answer make sense in relation to what was being asked to find.
  • Work the problem backwards to see if you can work your way back to your beginning plan or formula you developed, if you can then you have the right answer.
  • If it does, then check your work again just to be sure.
  • Do not forget units of measure, this is a common problem some students experience when the answer looks right; however they mixed units of measure and the answer is wrong.

All of these strategies will work when solving math problems using a plan. This plan of action will help identify everything needed to solve the problem.

Once you solve the problem you thought was impossible using this plan, then you will find all problems easier to solve in the future. This plan takes practice and once you have mastered it, you will no longer need to write it down as you develop your own problem solving technique.