Problem Solving and Critical Thinking
Procedures for Attacking and Solving Problems
- Read the problem rapidly to obtain a general idea of its nature. Try to answer the questions: What is it about? What does it involve?
- Read it again carefully, noting the details. Underline the parts that you think will be needed to solve the problem. You should now be trying to determine the conditions and the requirements of the problem.
- Try to restate the problem using only the necessary information. Be sure you have identified the unknown.
- What symbols, formulas, or equations will be needed? You may be uncertain about the necessary equations at this point. if so, wait until Step 7 for that information.
- Convert the data to appropriate symbols so that each given and required part of the problem is represented.
- If possible, try to represent the problem by drawing a figure. Label its parts.
- Select the equations necessary to solve the problem.
- Estimate your answer before computing.
- Manipulate the equations, checking each step for carelessness in basic arithmetical processes, i.e., mistakes in adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, dropping of signs, and the use of wrong signs.
- Check the final answer obtained and see if it meets the conditions of the problem.
Critical Thinking Skills
The ability to think critically, to evaluate systematically what we hear and read, rests on a set of specific skills. These skills include the ability to identify ambiguous claims or arguments, to identify unstated assumptions, and to detect bias. Critical thinkers are able to evaluate evidence. They are able to distinguish between verifiable facts and value claims, and between relevant and irrelevant information, claims, or reasons. Critical thinkers are able to determine the factual accuracy of a statement and the credibility of a source. They recognize logical inconsistencies or fallacies in a line of reasoning and can determine the strength of an argument or claim.
Statement from the Office of Academic Assessment study group comprised of John Barber, Paul Biner, Sandra Canter, and Jon Hendrix.
The Learning Center
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