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Old 06-19-2021, 09:35 PM   #1
Ryanb9
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How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

A college dropout I know is wanting to get into computer science. They know how to code, but they didn't pay much attention in highschool and dropped out of college. Does anyone know of a good book for this person to read that gives problem solving tools to add to their toolbox? From talking to this person, I feel like I have 20 different tools I can pull out at any time to solve a problem and they have none, but I don't know where I got mine.

For instance, divide and conquer is a tool I use all the time without really thinking about it. I've split a list into sub-lists before, etc.
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Old 06-20-2021, 12:12 PM   #2
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Please help him as it would help me so thanks in the advance for the post. I’m a college drop out too
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Old 06-21-2021, 01:43 PM   #3
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryanb9 View Post
From talking to this person, I feel like I have 20 different tools I can pull out at any time to solve a problem and they have none, but I don't know where I got mine.

For instance, divide and conquer is a tool I use all the time without really thinking about it. I've split a list into sub-lists before, etc.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divide...quer_algorithm

I understand the merge sort algorithm, but can't think when I've ever used it.

What are some of the other 19 tools?
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Old 06-21-2021, 05:37 PM   #4
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Consider simplified versions of the problem.

Consider extreme versions of the problem.


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Old 06-22-2021, 03:58 AM   #5
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

How about checking out the "...for Dummies" book seris?
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Old 06-25-2021, 06:23 AM   #6
Ronny Mahoni
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Are there particular areas for which he wants to learn things?

Generally speaking Id say that I learned problem solving mostly through games and maths, where as the most usefull techniques I gathered from maths were when I considered it a game/was having fun with it.
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Old 06-25-2021, 09:03 AM   #7
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Sudoku puzzles


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Old 06-25-2021, 09:14 AM   #8
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Learn to code.


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Old 06-25-2021, 09:16 AM   #9
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Get a math textbook at the next level for you and solve all the homework problems in it.


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Old 07-08-2021, 02:36 PM   #10
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lastcardcharlie View Post
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divide...quer_algorithm

I understand the merge sort algorithm, but can't think when I've ever used it.

What are some of the other 19 tools?
How to ask for help on a problem (knowing what to ask?)
Deciding what information is useful and what info can be ignored.
Not falling into tons of traps that are personal to you. I.e. i know i can miss a negative sign very easily, im prone to it, so i make myself be careful with negative numbers.
If somethings too hard, you can skip it.
If somethings too easy, you can get suspicious.
If im taking a test and I cant solve a problem, I skip it. Then when im done with the test, i skim the test looking for any clues that will tip me off as to how to solve the problem.
different ways of brainstorming have also really helped me with problem solving.

here's one. when doing a math problem, you can sometimes give it a once over and estimate the answer. then when you really solve the problem, if your answer is way off from that, you can get suspicious. Its rare that this works, but if, for instance, your finding the mins and maxs of a function, sometimes you can see "oh ****, the max is at about 3, so if i get 24 i know i fk*d up"

sometimes you can carve portions of the number line from the set of possible answers. I do this in my head sometimes. when i see x^2 i can picture the output as an arrow going to the right from 0 on the number line. I can also picture the graph, which is a very different picture.
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Old 07-15-2021, 02:00 AM   #11
Aaron W.
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryanb9 View Post
Does anyone know of a good book for this person to read that gives problem solving tools to add to their toolbox?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryanb9 View Post
How to ask for help on a problem (knowing what to ask?)
Deciding what information is useful and what info can be ignored.
Not falling into tons of traps that are personal to you. I.e. i know i can miss a negative sign very easily, im prone to it, so i make myself be careful with negative numbers.
If somethings too hard, you can skip it.
If somethings too easy, you can get suspicious.
If im taking a test and I cant solve a problem, I skip it. Then when im done with the test, i skim the test looking for any clues that will tip me off as to how to solve the problem.
different ways of brainstorming have also really helped me with problem solving.
At first, it looked like you were talking about specific problem-solving techniques for programming. For that, I would suggest a book on algorithms. It gives you a foundation for ways of approaching problems that builds up your toolbox of ways you can try to approach new problems.

But then your second list is sort of more like meta-problem solving techniques. For that, I doubt there's going to be a useful book, but if there were one it's going to be in the self-help section. Maybe it's in a book of proverbs, wise sayings, or fables. Or maybe a book on growth mindset. Or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Maybe your friend just doesn't have any experience at all, in which case they need to go out and get some. If the focus really is on programming, try Project Euler. If it's more of a meta thing, I don't have any good advice. Maybe they just need to get a hobby.
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Old 07-19-2021, 06:57 PM   #12
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

there's gotta be books on this very subject.

i'm thinking perhaps naively that you just learn some of this stuff on your own and in life in general. not taught in school... although i was top serious student, so maybe i'm unrealistic.

one thing i always liked when i was faced with tough math questions is evaluate boundary conditions. for probability question, if i was thoroughly confused i would try p=0, p =1, p=1/2 and at least i'd understand something more and have a minimal answer. also, good for checking answer you already have
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Old 07-22-2021, 02:56 AM   #13
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

There is a book on this very subject

How to Solve It (1945) is a small volume by mathematician George Pólya
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Solve_It

also +1 to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. An extraordinary book that I recommend to everyone.
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Old 07-22-2021, 12:02 PM   #14
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Sometimes considering an extension of the problem can help you see that your solution must be wrong. For example I’ve seen people make the error of answering 1/3 for the probability of throwing a six if you throw a die twice. They reason that the probability for one throw is 1/6, so for two it’s 1/6 + 1/6 = 1/3. I ask them then what the probability is for throwing a six if you throw the die seven times. The result of 7/6 obtained by the erroneous reasoning shows that reasoning to obviously be in error.
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Old 07-22-2021, 12:42 PM   #15
lastcardcharlie
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryanb9 View Post
Not falling into tons of traps that are personal to you. I.e. i know i can miss a negative sign very easily, im prone to it, so i make myself be careful with negative numbers.
If somethings too hard, you can skip it.
If somethings too easy, you can get suspicious.
If im taking a test and I cant solve a problem, I skip it. Then when im done with the test, i skim the test looking for any clues that will tip me off as to how to solve the problem.

here's one. when doing a math problem, you can sometimes give it a once over and estimate the answer. then when you really solve the problem, if your answer is way off from that, you can get suspicious. Its rare that this works, but if, for instance, your finding the mins and maxs of a function, sometimes you can see "oh ****, the max is at about 3, so if i get 24 i know i fk*d up"
All of these seem to me related to dealing with the pressure of tests or exams. Almost all humans make unforced math errors, e.g. with the negative sign. I'd add that these seem more likely to occur towards the end of an answer, when the mind is bored or complacent.
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Old Yesterday, 02:36 PM   #16
rivercitybirdie
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lastcardcharlie View Post
All of these seem to me related to dealing with the pressure of tests or exams. Almost all humans make unforced math errors, e.g. with the negative sign. I'd add that these seem more likely to occur towards the end of an answer, when the mind is bored or complacent.
"collecting terms" is often where a mistake is made..
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Old Yesterday, 02:39 PM   #17
rivercitybirdie
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Re: How can a college dropout get better at problem solving?

OP.... google "how to solve any math problem book"

i don't want to mention any book publisher on 2p2's site.. but there is a prominent publisher that's made a business of buying up old classic STEM books and marketing them... i LOVE surfing their catalog.. OP, if you don't know the book company's name, shoot me a PM
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