In the world of mathematics and algorithms, problem-solving is an art which follows well-defined steps. Such steps do not follow some strict rules and each individual can come up with their steps of solving the problem. But there are some guidelines which can help to solve systematically.
In this direction, mathematician George Polya crafted a legacy that has guided countless individuals through the maze of problem-solving. In his book “How To Solve It,” Polya provided four fundamental steps that serve as a compass for handling mathematical challenges.
Let’s look at each one of these steps in detail.
Before starting the journey of problem-solving, a critical step is to understand every critical detail in the problem. According to Polya, this initial phase serves as the foundation for successful solutions.
At first sight, understanding a problem may seem a trivial task for us, but it is often the root cause of failure in problem-solving. The reason is simple: We often understand the problem in a hurry and miss some important details or make some unnecessary assumptions. So, we need to clearly understand the problem by asking these essential questions:
Just as a painter understands the canvas before using the brush, understanding the problem is the first step towards the correct solution.
Polya mentions that there are many reasonable ways to solve problems. If we want to learn how to choose the best problem-solving strategy, the most effective way is to solve a variety of problems and observe different steps involved in the thought process and implementation techniques.
During this practice, we can try these strategies:
Here are some critical questions at this stage:
This is the execution phase where we transform the blueprint of our devised strategy into a correct solution. As we proceed, our goal is to put each step into action and move towards the solution.
In general, after identifying the strategy, we need to move forward and persist with the chosen strategy. If it is not working, then we should not hesitate to discard it and try another strategy. All we need is care and patience. Don’t be misled, this is how mathematics is done, even by professionals. There is one important thing: We need to verify the correctness of each step or prove the correctness of the entire solution.
In the rush to solve a problem, we often ignore learning from the completed solutions. So according to Polya, we can gain a lot of new insights by taking the time to reflect and look back at what we have done, what worked, and what didn’t. Doing this will enable us to predict what strategy to use to solve future problems.
By consistently following the steps, you can observe a lot of interesting insights on your own.
George Polya's problem-solving methods give us a clear way of thinking to get better at math. These methods change the experience of dealing with math problems from something hard to something exciting. By following Polya's ideas, we not only learn how to approach math problems but also learn how to handle the difficult parts of math problems.
There are 3 doors behind which are two goats and a car. You pick door 1 hoping for the car but don’t open it right away. Monty Hall, the game show host who knows what's behind the doors, opens door 3, which has a goat. Here's the game: do you want to pick door No. 2? Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?
Given two non-negative integers, m and n, we have to find their greatest common divisor or HCF. It is the largest number, a divisor of both m and n. The Euclidean algorithm is one of the oldest and most widely known methods for computing the GCD of two integers.