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How to solve problems

2. Show your thought process

3. Follow all conventions (e.g. standard notation, right-hand coordinate systems, special conventions like “long side in x-direction for rectangular waveguides,” etc.). When you have to make up symbols or invent a notation for yourself, make it logical—something suggestive and a good mnemonic that will help you remember what it stands for. 5. Convert all given data to SI then plug in to get answers in SI; always check the units of symbolic results and include the units of numeric results.

1. Make a sketch • Label coordinate systems • Label points, surfaces, vectors, fields, forces, etc. • Show reference directions for voltages and currents, etc.

4. Solve everything symbolically until the end: don’t plug in numbers until you have a complete answer expressed as an algebraic equation (like all rules, this one sometimes doesn’t make sense—get the idea, then use your judgment). 6. Reflect on the answer; does it make sense? • Check units • Check magnitudes of numeric answers • Sketch functional relationships • Check trends and limits • Does the answer seem intuitively correct—does it have the ring of truth? Develop your intuition—your ability to recognize correctness even without analysis. This is the most important reason for doing homework! The other reason is to learn to do the analysis; necessary but less important.

7. Reflect on the problem; make up a similar one • What does this problem teach? State a concept or method (a logical path) • Make up a similar problem: one that teaches the same concept or method

Be advised. a valuable resource for learning. however. don’t erase. One purpose of homework is to develop self-reliance and confidence. that’s fine. Draw lots of pictures. The purpose of solving problems is to learn what the problem has to teach. A similar problem is a different problem that uses the same concepts or methods. If a problem seems obvious or repetitive to you. use all the paper you need. begin with a blank sheet of paper and go as far as you can. The best way to make sure you have abstracted from a problem what concepts or methods it teaches is to make up a similar problem for yourself. The assigned homework problems will Only solve problems that you don’t know how to solve. For each problem make a note of all You must be able to solve all the assigned problems starting from a blank sheet of paper and referring only to your note sheet. Collect all your homework in a three-ring binder and bring it to office hours and study groups. that the exams are based on the problems. Don’t wait until the night before to create your note sheet—do it all quarter while you are working homework problems. number the pages. cross out. information you need to look up: values of physical constants. Consult the solution only when you are unable to make progress after a substantial effort. If you are too quick to consult the solutions when you get stuck. Doing problems is the only way to learn the subject. method summaries—anything you need and do not want to memorize. don’t do it. All the problems are optional. then continue to solve the problem on your own.teach you what you need to know. The posted problem solutions often give the answer in numeric but not symbolic form. they are just one more way to waste your time. If you use them correctly. or to Make a note sheet as you work the problems. Ask your instructor to review your note sheet with you from time to time. you bear the responsibility for that choice in case it is selected for the exam. algorithms. be creative. don’t throw any work away. problems. If you abuse them. avoid busy-work from which you will learn nothing. Do not abuse the homework solutions! It is a waste of your time to just read them. If you get stuck and need help. If the answer to a problem can be expressed as an algebraic formula. take more time and try to solve the problem on your own. they are your personal 24/7 tutor. Instead. When solving problems. this will not happen—you will become dependent. creativity is chaotic. There is no point in doing problems you already know how to do. refer to the solution. you must be able to solve similar . Your note sheet is essential to your success. Neatness doesn’t count. Practice! copy them onto your note sheet. you must supply the symbolic equations yourself. formulas not in the math handbook. If you choose to skip a homework problem because you know you can do it. Furthermore. capture that formula on your note sheet. it might save you time on an exam. Exams are designed to test that you did and understood all the homework.