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A powerful recipe for solving even the most confusing physics problems: STEP 1. What is my unknown? What variable am I trying to find? What are its units? What is its symbol(s)? Do not pay attention to the values and/or numbers the problem is providing just yet. STEP 2. What physics is occurring? What principles of physics are occurring in the problem? This is a simple question if you are working a problem from a text book: its the name of the chapter you are in! If you don't know where to start, just start searching portions of the question in HyperPhysics.info. Even seemingly general words like mass, equilibrium, and rate can be very helpful in locating descriptions and diagrams. You may even stumble onto an example of the exact problem if you are lucky. STEP 3. What are my equations? Search your textbook or HyperPhysics.info for the governing equations. Do the governing equations include your unknown variable? If not, you may need some geometric information or need to make other assumptions to solve the problem. STEP 4. Number of equations = number of missing variables? Once you have located your variable in one of the governing equations fill in the values you know. If you have one equation and one unknown, just finish your algebra and you are done. Your number of equations will be equal to the number of missing variables in order to solve the problem(that includes your primary unknown of course). If you have too many variables, you may have used the wrong formula or simply need more equations. STEP 5. Can your thought process be followed? Most good physics teachers believe in partial credit. This is due to the complex, multistep nature of the problems. If you would like an opportunity to receive points for your wrong answers you need to make sure that the grader can follow your work. This includes showing your units, equations, and assumptions throughout the problem. Don't forget to box or circle your answer. ©2010 HyperPhysics.info 
