ne of the advantages of private tutoring is that we can watch students work through academic tasks in real time. This has given us insight into the best and worst practices for success. Take the common practice of solving a math problem: **Novice problem solvers**attack problems without a plan in their minds and a pencil in their hands. They move through the problems as fast as possible without double checking on the page and on the calculator. Calculations often end up messy and don't follow the standard or recommended conventions. In the end, students may have solved correctly, but sometimes not for what the question was ACTUALLY asking.**Seasoned problem solvers**have a plan of attack for a math problem. They plot out the steps that will be needed, they understand the form of the answer, then they go ahead and execute. A systematic approach to solving math problems clarifies the path to the answer, and increases the chances for success across each individual part, and thus, the entire problem.
What are successful strategies?__Write everything down__, and underline the relevant information in word problems.__Organize yourself__: Divide the page into boxes/areas for (A) basic known information; (B) calculations; and (C) answers (as needed)__Plan everything out__: Ask yourself, what am I trying to solve for (and what units and form should the answer be in?), then write out your plan to solve the problem all the way to the answer__Double check__as you calculate - don't double check at the end!__Don't forget units__. This is a simple check.__All in all, don't go on autopilot__. Be more mindful of the work you are doing. Remember it is not so much about getting the work done as it is about getting the work DONE RIGHT.
An example of the above approach taken on a GMAT (business school test) math problem An SUV consumes 40% more fuel than a family sedan for the same distance. The total fuel consumed when an SUV and a family sedan drove 1050km was 360 litres. How many litres of fuel does the sedan consume per km?
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October 2016
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