How to Effectively Solve Math Problems?

Here we discuss strategies on how to solve math problems. It is certainly very difficult to generalize all possible techniques to solve math problems, but we can make an attempt to go over some main pointers that could lead you into the answer you're looking for.

First of all, we need to make a distinction: it is different to starting solving a problem when we are practicing at home to the case where we are taking a timed test, for example. On a time-constrained situation, it is imperative also to take measures to apply appropriate time management techniques (we will talk at least tangentially about it in here). So, in general, there are good practices that can be tremendously useful when solving math problems, and those practices need to be used in the content of proper time management.

We will try to summarize the the best practice points in a checklist type of strategy.

  • When in a timed-test situation, don't be afraid of spending a good amount of time reading the problem over several times. Many times due to anxiety students want to start working on a questions before fully understanding what they need to answer. They think they are saving time by starting fast on answering the question, but it is way better to read the problems several times, to make sure we understand what is being asked
  • It is typically understated by teachers, by practicing is the best way to solve math problems efficiently when taking a test. See, it is obvious that you have a better chance to solve a problem if you have solved a similar problem beforehand. How much practice is too much practice? Nothing is too much unfortunately, especially if you naturally difficulty with math problems
  • In terms of actually solving a problem, beyond time management techniques, there is nothing set on stone. The safest approach is practice a lot with problems before, so we are familiar with the problems we find on a test. Other than that, there are some generic techniques. One that seems to work alright is question yourself: "What exactly am I being requested to do?" Ask that questions to yourself, and don't attempt to move forward with the problem, until you fully realize what you're being asked to do.
  • Once you have thought and you have it clear in terms of what you need to do, before doing anything, you need to think how are you going to do this task you need to accomplish. I mean, how EXACTLY will you do it? What steps you'll take
  • Once you have a clear roadmap of what you'll do, just then start working on the problems. In other words, experience indicates that it is much more efficient to spend time preparing a mental roadmap of the problem before even start attempting to give an answer. From many points of view, that could be considered one of the few infalible techniques that will help you with solving your math problems

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