Physics 271: Advanced Honors Physics I

Recitation #3: Problem Solving Checklist

Fall 2017

0. NEVER write only the answer. You need to show where it came from and why it is right.

1. Check that you have drawn at least one diagram and labelled it clearly. This might involve copying the diagram from the problem statement and adding extra labels, or making a diagram from scratch. Make it pretty large to leave room for labels and make it readable. Quantities from the statement of the problem should appear in the diagram.

2. Check that the meanings of any symbols you have introduced yourself are clear. First, if the symbol is a label in the diagram, make sure the diagram makes its meaning clear. If not, or if it is not in the diagram, write a short phrase to explain what the symbol represents.

3. Check that all vector quantities are written so that their vector character is clear. In typesetting, boldface indicates a vector quantity. In a diagram, if you draw an arrow to indicate the direction and write the magnitude next to the arrow (this is how we draw force diagrams). In handwriting, put an arrow over the quantity to show it is a vector. Velocity is a vector, so write v with an arrow over it. The x component of the velocity is not a vector, so do not put an arrow over it. In a sum, you cannot add a vector to a number. In an equation, you cannot have a vector on one side and a number on the other side.

4. Check that each statement clearly follows from the previous statement. (This is in the same spirit as Checklist Item #0 - you can't state things without showing where they came from).

5. Check that you have stated the answer at the end of the solution. The answer should be an equation in the form

desired quantity = expression in terms of given quantities

You might be tempted to save writing by just writing the right hand side, but it is best practice to write the whole thing (this acts as a final check that your expression is indeed for the quantity the problem asked for).

To make it clear that it is the answer, PUT A BOX AROUND IT.

This page is maintained by Karin Rabe.