Motivational story: Problem Solving

Five wise men got lost in the forest.
The first one said:
– I will go left – my intuition tells me that.
The second one said:
– I will go right – there is a reason why right comes from the word rightness.
The third one said:
– I will go back – we came from there, it means I will go out from the forest.
The fourth one said:
– I will go straight – we should move forward, the forest will end and something new will open.
The fifth said:
– You are all wrong. There is a better solution. Wait for me.
He found the tallest tree and climbed into it. While he was climbing everyone else scattered towards their own sides. From above he saw where they should go to leave the forest faster. Now he could even see in what order the other wise men will reach the end of the forest. He climbed higher and saw the shortest way. He understood the problem and found the best solution! He knew that he did everything right. And the others were wrong. They were stubborn and they didn’t listen to him. He was the real Wise Man!

How to solve a problem???
• First, you have to understand the problem.
• After understanding, then make a plan.
• Carry out the plan.
• Look back on your work. How could it be better?

“Understand the problem” is often neglected as being obvious and is not even mentioned in many mathematics classes. Yet students are often stymied in their efforts to solve it, simply because they don’t understand it fully, or even in part. In order to remedy this oversight, Pólya(an eminent mathematician) taught teachers how to prompt each student with appropriate questions, depending on the situation, such as:
What are you asked to find or show?
Can you restate the problem in your own words?
Can you think of a picture or a diagram that might help you understand the problem?
Is there enough information to enable you to find a solution?
Do you understand all the words used in stating the problem?
Do you need to ask a question to get the answer?

If you don’t understand the problem and try to solve it, you will be lost in the forest as the 4 men in the above story. Lateral thinking, mind mapping and brainstorming are the very basis of any creative problem solving.