Problem Solving

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There are as many problem solving techniques as there are problem solvers, some have passed the test of time and are worth emulating.


The first task in ps is not to work on the solution until the problem are well defined. Norbert Weiner had a good approach for this process.[1]

The theme from his earliest years was a philosophical demonstration of the incompleteness of all knowledge. He could then focus on what he did know and try different solutions until he found one that worked the best.

He was volatile and impulse which he viewed as the source of his creative power. He had profound sense of the need to impose order on the process and the solution in spite of chaos inherent in the real world.

He was not happy until he had reduced the remaining discord into a recognizable solution so he could move onto the next problem. He never felt that he had reached the end of the process as there would always be new issues arising that required rethinking the solution.


This solution was created by G. Polya, a Stanford Mathematician in 1944.[2]

  1. Understand the Problem.
  2. Find the connection between the data and the unknown.
  3. Create a plan based on that data.
  4. Carry out that plan.
  5. Check the results against the existing data.
  6. Look for other examples that might falsify the results. (This is added based on the work of the philosopher Popper.)


  1. Steve J. Heims, Jonhn von Neumann and Norbert Weiner. MIT Press (1982) Chap 7. ISBN 0-262-58056
  2. G. Polya and John H. Conway, How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method Princeton Science Library (2014-10-27) ISBN 978-0691164076 older version of the book are available