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1.14: Solving Problems in Physics

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Solving Problems in Physics

1.14: Solving Problems in Physics

Problem-solving is the ability to apply general physical principles to specific situations, usually expressed by equations. It is an essential skill in physics, and can also be useful for applying physics in everyday life as well. Analytical skills and problem-solving abilities can be applied to new situations, compared to a list of facts, which can never be extensive enough to include every possible circumstance. To solve physics problems, a certain amount of creativity and insight is required; this can be developed through experience and practice.

Although there is no simple step-by-step method that works for every problem, a three-stage process can be followed: Strategy, Solution, and Evaluation.

  1. Strategy is the first stage of solving a problem. The goal is to determine the nature of the problem and then devise a strategy for resolving it.
  2. The solution stage is when the math is done. Substitute the knowns along with their units into the relevant equation and obtain numerical solutions complete with units.
  3. After obtaining a numerical answer, the last step is to evaluate its significance. This is done by checking units, determining if the answer is reasonable or not, and then determining what interesting information the result provides. 

Ultimately, physics is about comprehending nature, and we solve physics problems to gain a better grasp of how nature works.

The text is adapted from Openstax, University Physics Volume 1, Section 1.7: Solving Problems in Physics.


Solving Problems Physics Problem-solving General Principles Equations Analytical Skills Creativity Insight Experience Practice Three-stage Process Strategy Solution Evaluation Math Units Significance Nature

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