As I thought about what I wanted my April blog post to be about, I thought of problem solving. Problem solving is something that we do everyday whether we know it or not. When I was taking chemistry 111, I had to write up post-lab reports about the experiment we had done that week, which included calculations and if the experiment had worked, etc. It was a big part of our grade, so missing one could lower our grade by a few points. I would always print it out the night before, but of course the one time I tried printing it out while rushing to get ready for practice, which was right before my chem class, the printer stopped working. I was frantic because I could not just not turn it in. I quickly checked to see if I had run out of paper, nope. I checked to see if my computer was set to the right printer, yes. Then, I come to see that I ran out of ink. I quick searched my mind for a way to print out my report. Then I remembered my friend down the hall had a printer. I quickly ran to print out my report just before I had to leave. This is just one example of a problem I had to solve that day. I came across an article by Lumen Learning, Problem Solving, that described two types of ways problems are solved, which is algorithms and heuristics. “Algorithm is a problem-solving formula that provides someone with step-by-step instructions used to achieve a desired outcome.” This may apply to a mathematical problem, using step-by-step instructions from a textbook to figure out the correct answer. One other way that may be more common on a day to day basis is using heuristics. “You can think of these as mental shortcuts that are used to solve problems.” The article explained the different types of heuristics that are used in different types of situations, and the impulses that occur when one of five conditions are met:
-When one is faced with too much information
-When the time to decide is limited
-When the decision to be made is unimportant
-When there is access to very little information to use in making the decision
-When an appropriate heuristic happens to come to mind in the same moment
An example was given that shows when a heuristic would be applied, which really helped me understand how exactly this helps us with problem solving. When trying to accomplish a large task, students tend to break it into smaller tasks so that it doesn’t seem as overwhelming.
The article ended on listing and describing a few ways on how problem solving can practice every day. Solving puzzles, such as sudoku, can improve problem solving abilities, with practice. In this game, you are given a grid with squares inside that may contain a number. To solve the puzzle, you must fill in the empty boxes with single digits and each row must total ten, while only each digit can appear once in each row and column. It takes some time to solve, but it is a great way to practice problem solving.