# Help Solving Physics Problems Physics problems begin as word problems and terminate as mathematical exercises.Before the mathematics portion of a problem begins, a student must translate the written information into mathematical variables.It is the habit of a good problem-solver to carefully read the verbal statement and to combine the attention to units (meters, kilograms, Joules, etc.) with their understanding of the meaning of physical quantities in order to accurately extract the numerical information and equate it with the appropriate symbol.

Physics problems begin as word problems and terminate as mathematical exercises.Before the mathematics portion of a problem begins, a student must translate the written information into mathematical variables.It is the habit of a good problem-solver to carefully read the verbal statement and to combine the attention to units (meters, kilograms, Joules, etc.) with their understanding of the meaning of physical quantities in order to accurately extract the numerical information and equate it with the appropriate symbol.

Once the physical situation has been visualized and diagrammed and the numerical information has been extracted from the verbal statement, the strategy plotting stage begins.

During this stage of a problem, the student ponders the question: "How can I use the known information - both explicit and implied - to determine the unknown quantity?

If the topic pertains to forces, a force diagram might be drawn.

If the problem pertains to mirrors, a ray diagram or object-image diagram may be drawn.

This task will also include observing strategic and meaningful phrases such as "a magnified and virtual image", "a diverging lens", "starting from rest", "with a constant velocity", and "in the absence of air resistance." While such phrases do not explicitly provide numerical information, they do go a long way towards offering information which implies a particular solution strategy.

In addition to identifying the known information, good problem-solvers also practice the habit of identifying the quantity to be solved for, recording it in terms of its appropriate symbol.

As mentioned earlier, physics problems begin as word problems and terminate as mathematical exercises.

During the algebraic/mathematical part of the problem, the student must make substitution of known numerical information into a mathematical formula (and hopefully into the correct formula ).

The list is NOT an exhaustive list; it simply includes some commonly observed habits which good problem-solvers practice.

Anyone can be a good problem-solver; because of personality and learning style differences, some will certainly be better than others.

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