## Problem Solving Skills

#### Before attempting the problem:

**Read the question carefully!**

- Read the question a second time.
- Perhaps re-write the question in your own words.
- Do you understand what the question is asking you to do? E.g. Show, solve, prove, etc.

**Highlight the key phrases. These are often indicators on how to tackle the problem.**

- Do you understand what they mean?

- Do you understand what they mean?
**Think about what techniques you are going to use.**- Do you need to read up on any related topics before starting?
- Have you seen any similar problems? What techniques were used there?

#### When attempting the problem:

**Summarise the information given to you in the question.****Try simplifying the problem as much as possible before returning to the general case.**

- Can the problem be broken down into smaller parts?
- Can any equations/expressions be simplified?
- Can you look at some simple cases of the problem? E.g. You may not know how to calculate x
^{2}× x^{3}, but you may be able to work out 2^{2}× 2^{3}. Now can you spot a general pattern?

**If appropriate, draw a diagram help you visualise the problem.****Discuss the problem with a friend or in a small group.**

- Seeing how others attack a problem can be really useful.
- Explaining to someone how you would tackle a problem can be equally productive.
- Simply copying someone else’s work benefits no one!!

**If you do get stuck, DO NOT GIVE UP!!**

- Take a break.
- Go back and check your calculations.
- Is there an alternative method you could use?
- Compare what you have done with some similar examples.

#### When you have completed the problem:

**Check all your workings!**

- Is what you have written clear and logical? (See Writing Skills for Maths)
- Does your final answer make sense? For example, if you are calculating a probability, an answer of -0.5 or 2.8 should indicate that you’ve made a mistake.
- Ask a friend to check your solution. Does it make sense to them?

**Reflect upon what you have done.**- What techniques have you used?
- Are there any steps that you still don’t fully understand?
- Can I get some additional feedback? (Yes! Bring your work along to the Maths Support Service).

#### What next?

Why not check out our other study skills guides: