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# Problem Solving

Reference: Mathematical
Excursions (Chapter 1)
By: Richard N. Aufmann
Joanne S. Lockwood
Richard D. Nation
Daniel K. Clegg
Introduction:

## • Math Exercises – is a task where the students know what

is asked and know a direct way of doing it.

## Math Problem – is a task where students know what is

asked, but do not know a direct way of doing it.

## Math investigation – is a task where students do not know

what is asked and do not know a direct way of solving it.
Problem
- a situation that confronts a person, that requires
resolution, and for which the path to the solution
is not immediately known.
• Devise a Plan. Successful problem solvers use a variety of
techniques when they attempt to solve a problem. Here are
some frequently used procedures/strategies:

Working Backwards
Logical Reasoning
Finding a pattern
Creating a visual representation
Solve a similar but simpler problem
Organizing Data
Considering Extreme Cases
Adopt a Different Point of View
Accounting for all Possibilities
Write an Equation
Intelligent Guessing and Testing
Working Backwards

## •When using the “working backwards”

strategy, each operation must be reversed to
get back to the beginning. So if working
work backwards they will need to subtract.
And if they multiply working forwards, they
must divide working backwards.
Logical Reasoning
•When dealing with friends and
colleagues, we find that we say will
often evoke certain response. That
discussion/argument; we are, in
effect, using logical reasoning. That is,
if you say A then it is expected that
the response will be B. This then will
lead to statement C, which will likely
be responded to with statement D.
Finding a Pattern

## •Finding a pattern is a strategy in

which students look for patterns in the
data in order to solve the problem.
Students look for items or numbers
that are repeated or a series of
events that repeats.
Creating a Visual Representation

## •Creating a visual representation to

solve a problem in mathematics is a
process that involves:
• Draw a diagram.
• Perform an experiment.
Solving a Simpler, Analogous Problem

## •Solving a simpler, analogous problem can

be used when you problem solve any
situation that seems too complicated to
do in one step. In other words, it may
require multiple operations, or you may
have to break down the problem to be
able to solve it.
Organizing Data
•Make a table or a chart.
•This problem solving strategy manifests
itself frequently in our everyday planning
processes. When faced with several tasks
and the problem of how best to
approach them, we tend to organize the
tasks by time, place, difficulty, or some
other important criterion.
Considering Extreme Cases
•To analyse some situations, whether in a
mathematical setting or not, it can be
helpful to look at extreme cases. Holding
some variables constant while others vary to
extremes sometimes yields useful insights into
a given situation. By considering extremes,
we may be changing variables in the
problem, but only those that do not affect
the actual problem situation. Here, we must
be careful to consider only extremes do not
change the nature of the crucial variables
of the problem. In addition, we must be
careful that changing a variable does not
affect other variables as well.
Adopt a Different Point of View

## •It is sometimes beneficial to the problem

solver to adopt a different point of view
than that which he or she was led initially
by the problem. We use this sort of thinking
automatically in everyday life.
Accounting for all Possibilities
•Considering all the options can be an
effective way to solve a problem. Although
there may be instances where this strategy
is not the most sophisticated procedure, it
may be the simplest to use, since it is
typically not very abstract.
•Make an organized list that shows all the
possibilities
Write an Equation

## •Writing an equation is a strategy that

is done by translating word problems
to mathematical statements using a
variable (any letter from the English
alphabet except o) that would
represent the unknown in the
problem.
Intelligent Guessing and Testing
•Solving an equation is really only a variation
of intelligent guessing and testing. In the
“solve” part we put forth a guess, arrived at
intelligently by some careful mathematical
manipulations. In the “check” or verification
part, we test our guess to show that it is
indeed correct.
Sample problem
•In a room with 10 people, everyone shakes
hands with everybody else exactly once. How
many handshakes are there?
•Understanding the Problem:
Unknown: number of handshakes in a room
Given: 10 people shakes hands with everybody
exactly once
• Devise a plan:

## •Carry out the plan:

•Visual Representation (Draw a Diagram)

E
D F

C G

B H

A I
J
•Accounting all possibilities
A B C D E F G H I J

A X

B X

C X

D X

E X

F X

G X

H X

I X

J X
Finding for a Pattern
Number of People in Number of Total Number of
Room Handshakes for Handshakes in
1 0 0
2 1 1
3 2 3
4 3 6
5 4 10
6 5 15
7 6 21
8 7 28
9 8 36
10 9 45
Organizing
Data
Number of
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
People
Number of
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
handshakes
Geometry
• For 10 people we have a decagon, and the number of sides, n = 10.
for the number of diagonals, we may use the formula:

𝑛(𝑛−3)
•𝑑= , 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑛 > 3.
2
• Hence,
(10)(7)
•𝑑= 2
= 35
• Thus, the number of handshakes equals 10 + 35 = 45
Probability
• Combinations formula of 10 things taken 2 at a time:

10 C2  45
Number of People Number of Handshakes Visual Representation

1 0 • A

2 1 A
B
A
B
3 3

C
A
B
4 6

D C
A

5 10 E B

D C
•Review the solution: (reflect)
•There are 45 handshakes in the room
with 10 people.
•Exercises:

## •Evelyn, Henry and Al play a certain game. The

player who loses each round must give each of
the other players as much money as the player
has at that time. In Round 1, Evelyn loses and
gives Henry and Al as much as they each have. In
Round 2, Henry loses, and gives Evelyn and Al as
much money as they each have. Al loses in Round
3 and gives Evelyn and Henry as much money as
they have. They decide to quit at this point and
discover that they each have 24 pesos. How
much money did they each start ?
•Understanding the Problem:
Unknown: Amount of money Evelyn, Henry
and Al each has before they started to
play.
Given: Each has 24 pesos at the end of the
game. The player who loses each round
must give each of the other players as
much money as the player has at that
time
• Devise a plan:
Working Backwards
Writing an equation

## • Carry out plan…

Carry out plan…

Evelyn Henry Al
Start 39 21 12
6+21+12 21 12
End of
6 42 24
round 1
6 12+24+6 24
End of
12 12 48
round 2
12 12 24+12+12
End of
24 24 24
round 3
Review solution: Reflect
Evelyn Henry Al
Start 39 21 12
Round 1 39-21-12 +21 +12
End of
6 42 24
round 1
Round 2 +6 42-6-24 +24
End of
12 12 48
round 2
Round 3 +12 +12 48-12-12
End of
24 24 24
round 3

had 12 pesos before the start of the game.
•Understanding the Problem:
Unknown: Amount of money Evelyn, Henry
and Al each has before they started to
play.
Given: Each has 24 pesos at the end of the
game. The player who loses each round
must give each of the other players as
much money as the player has at that
time
• Devise a plan:
Working Backwards
Writing an equation