Hints for Solving
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:
Start with plenty of clean
Write a statement of the
problem--what the situation is and what you need to
Write what is "Given"
w Draw a
picture of the situation, if applicable.
Solve the Problem.
Break the problem into a series of smaller problems.
w Solve each smaller
problem first, and then the larger one, in a logical
sequence of steps that take you from what you know to
what you want to know.
At the beginning of each step, write
in words what process
that step involves.
Write the units of
measurement at every step in the solution.
This really is important!
w Convert units
as necessary. For more on units, see p. 19-20 in
Fetter's Applied Hydrogeology textbook.
Check to be sure your
answer is reasonable. Picture the result, if you
Check to be sure
you included units of measurement in every step.
w Check to be sure the
answer is expressed in a convenient
order of magnitude.
Check the number of
significant figures (digits) in the answer. For
more on significant figures, see p. 18-19 in the Fetter
Get your work ready to show to another person.
Copy your solution onto a
clean sheet of paper.
w Start each problem on a
new sheet of paper.
Write no unexplained
numbers or words on the paper--every mark on the page
must be easily understood by the reader.
Make it easy to read: leave
lots of blank space, and put a box around the final
Use the best format for
solutions are best expressed with a graph.
On every graph, label each axis, including units of
measurement; give title and date; and write chapter and
Some answers are
best given in tables. If your
answer includes a table, make it neat. Each column
needs a heading; each heading must include units of
measurement. If applicable, show a sample
calculation after the table.
Write your name on every
Staple or clip pages
together, and trim ragged edges.