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  • Apply problem-solving steps and strategies to solve problems of one-dimensional kinematics.
  • Apply strategies to determine whether or not the result of a problem is reasonable, and if not, determine the cause.
Close-up photo of a hand writing in a notebook. On top of the notebook is a graphing calculator.
Problem-solving skills are essential to your success in Physics. (credit: scui3asteveo, Flickr)

Problem-solving skills are obviously essential to success in a quantitative course in physics. More importantly, the ability to apply broad physical principles, usually represented by equations, to specific situations is a very powerful form of knowledge. It is much more powerful than memorizing a list of facts. Analytical skills and problem-solving abilities can be applied to new situations, whereas a list of facts cannot be made long enough to contain every possible circumstance. Such analytical skills are useful both for solving problems in this text and for applying physics in everyday and professional life.

Problem-solving steps

While there is no simple step-by-step method that works for every problem, the following general procedures facilitate problem solving and make it more meaningful. A certain amount of creativity and insight is required as well.

Step 1

Examine the situation to determine which physical principles are involved . It often helps to draw a simple sketch at the outset. You will also need to decide which direction is positive and note that on your sketch. Once you have identified the physical principles, it is much easier to find and apply the equations representing those principles. Although finding the correct equation is essential, keep in mind that equations represent physical principles, laws of nature, and relationships among physical quantities. Without a conceptual understanding of a problem, a numerical solution is meaningless.

Step 2

Make a list of what is given or can be inferred from the problem as stated (identify the knowns) . Many problems are stated very succinctly and require some inspection to determine what is known. A sketch can also be very useful at this point. Formally identifying the knowns is of particular importance in applying physics to real-world situations. Remember, “stopped” means velocity is zero, and we often can take initial time and position as zero.

Step 3

Identify exactly what needs to be determined in the problem (identify the unknowns) . In complex problems, especially, it is not always obvious what needs to be found or in what sequence. Making a list can help.

Step 4

Find an equation or set of equations that can help you solve the problem . Your list of knowns and unknowns can help here. It is easiest if you can find equations that contain only one unknown—that is, all of the other variables are known, so you can easily solve for the unknown. If the equation contains more than one unknown, then an additional equation is needed to solve the problem. In some problems, several unknowns must be determined to get at the one needed most. In such problems it is especially important to keep physical principles in mind to avoid going astray in a sea of equations. You may have to use two (or more) different equations to get the final answer.

Questions & Answers

hello friends what is hadronic heating systems
Rabilu Reply
Hydronics is the use of a liquid heat-transfer medium in heating and cooling systems. 
Balogun
what is mass
Victor Reply
is the amount of an object
Sendawula
mass is the measure of the inertia of a body
Ishmeal
advantages of CRO over ordinary voltmeter
Dismas Reply
what is the difference between displacement and distance?!
Daniel Reply
what is equilibrium
Sade Reply
If a system is said to be under equilibrium whenever there is no force act upon it... And it remain in its initial stage..
soniya
what is velocity
Ahmed
time rate of displacement of a body is called velocity
muhammad
velocity is the gradient of acceleration time graph
Etana
actually equilibrium is when a body is in total balance where in no external force is acting on it. Or the forces on the left hand side equal those on the left hand side and downward forces equal upward forces & anticlockwise moment equal clockwise moment about the same point.
Etana
I mean left hand side and right hand side
Etana
What is conductivity
Saud Reply
It is the ease with which electrical charges or heat can be transmitted through a material or a solution.
Cffrrcvccgg
how to find magnitude and direction
Arjune Reply
how to caclculate for speed
Arjune
derivation of ohms law
Kazeem Reply
derivation of resistance
Kazeem
R=v/I where R=resistor, v=voltage, I=current
Kazeem
magnitude
Arjune
A puck is moving on an air hockey table. Relative to an x, y coordinate system at time t 0 s, the x components of the puck’s ini￾tial velocity and acceleration are v0x 1.0 m/s and ax 2.0 m/s2 . The y components of the puck’s initial velocity and acceleration are v0y 2.0 m/s and ay 2.0
Arjune
Electric current is the flow of electrons
Kelly Reply
is there really flow of electrons exist?
babar
Yes It exists
Cffrrcvccgg
explain plz how electrons flow
babar
if electron flows from where first come and end the first one
babar
an electron will flow accross a conductor because or when it posseses kinectic energy
Cffrrcvccgg
electron can not flow jist trasmit electrical energy
ghulam
free electrons of conductor
ankita
electric means the flow heat current.
Serah Reply
electric means the flow of heat current in a circuit.
Serah
What is electric
Manasseh Reply
electric means?
ghulam
electric means the flow of heat current in a circuit.
Serah
electric means the flow of electric current through conductor
Sade
the continuos flow of electrons in a circuit is called electric
ANUBHA
electric means charge
ghulam
electric means current
Sade
flow of current.
Sendawula
a boy cycles continuously through a distance of 1.0km in 5minutes. calculate his average speed in ms-1(meter per second). how do I solve this
Jenny Reply
speed = distance/time be sure to convert the km to m and minutes to seconds check my utube video "mathwithmrv speed"
PhysicswithMrV
d=1.0km÷1000=0.001 t=5×60=300s s=d\t s=0.001/300=0.0000033m\s
Serah
A puck is moving on an air hockey table. Relative to an x, y coordinate system at time t 0 s, the x components of the puck’s ini￾tial velocity and acceleration are v0x 1.0 m/s and ax 2.0 m/s2 . The y components of the puck’s initial velocity and acceleration are v0y 2.0 m/s and ay 2.0
Arjune
D=1km=1000m t=5mins×60secs=300sec s=d/t=3.333m/s
Daniel
I think Daniel Glorious is ryt
Amalia
why we cannot use DC instead of AC in a transformer
kusshaf Reply
becuse the d .c cannot travel for long distance trnsmission
ghulam
what is physics
Chiwetalu Reply
branch of science which deals with matter energy and their relationship between them
ghulam
Life science
the
what is heat and temperature
Kazeem Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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