Solving numerical problems is a critical aspect of scientific work. Your calculations must be neat and carefully done, and must be accompanied by explanations of the computations. Here's how to do well on solving numerical problems:

w Start
with
lots of clean scratch paper.

w Write
down information given; write what you need to find.

w Solve
the problem in a logical sequence of steps that take you from what you
know to what you want to know.

w Convert
units as necessary. For more on units, see p. 19-20 in Fetter's *Applied
Hydrogeology *textbook.

w *At
each step, write in words what process that step involves.*

w Check
to be sure your answer is reasonable, that you included units of
measurement,
and that the answer is in a convenient unit and order of magnitude.

w Check
the number of significant figures (digits) in the answer. For
more
on significant figures, see p. 18-19 in the Fetter textbook.

w Then,
copy your work onto a clean sheet of paper.

w Write
no unexplained numbers or words on the paper--everything must be
explained
in words.

w Make it
easy to read: leave lots of blank space, and put a box around the final
answer.

w Start
each problem on a new sheet of paper.

w On every
graph, label each axis, including units of measurement; give title and
date; and write chapter and problem number.

w Some
answers
are best given in tables. If your answer includes a table, make it
neat.
Each column needs a heading; the heading must include units of
measurement.
If applicable, show a sample calculation after the table.

w Write
your name on every page.

w Staple
or clip pages together, and trim ragged edges.

w Write
the ** units of measurement** at every step in the
solution.

Department of Earth Science | Northeastern Illinois University

*© 2005 Laura L. Sanders. Last updated
August 29, 2005.*