# Physics Problem Solving

- Draw a diagram of the situation, if possible.
- Identify the specific question:
- What physical property is required?
- What object possesses this property?
- What are the units for this property?
- How many significant figures should the answer have?

- Identify the pertinent information given in the problem.
- Identify information that is required but must be obtained outside of the
problem.
- Do any necessary unit conversions.
- All of the units in the problem should be compatible with one another
and appropriate for the quantities involved.
- e.g. - Meters per second is not compatible with kilometers. Light
years is not appropriate for the depth of a swimming pool.

- Identify the general physical concepts and laws that are appropriate to
the problem.
- List the appropriate equations.
- Restate the problem for clarity, if necessary.
- Solve the equations as necessary
- Do the necessary substitutions and calculate the result(s).
- If the unit conversions were done correctly in step #5, the result
will have the correct units.
**DO NOT** carry the units through the calculations. They
will get in the way and cause confusion!

- State the answer in an appropriate form with reasonable units. Clearly
identify the answer in some visual way.

### The order of these steps should be adjusted whenever it aids the solution.

Thomas Fitzpatrick

St
Joseph's Preparatory School

Philadelphia, PA

13 August 2008