How to Solve it: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (Penguin Science) Paperback – 26 Apr 1990
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"Every prospective teacher should read it. In particular, graduate students will find it invaluable. The traditional mathematics professor who reads a paper before one of the Mathematical Societies might also learn something from the book: 'He writes a, he says b, he means c; but it should be d.' "--E. T. Bell, Mathematical Monthly
"[This] elementary textbook on heuristic reasoning, shows anew how keen its author is on questions of method and the formulation of methodological principles. Exposition and illustrative material are of a disarmingly elementary character, but very carefully thought out and selected."--Herman Weyl, Mathematical Review
"I recommend it highly to any person who is seriously interested in finding out methods of solving problems, and who does not object to being entertained while he does it."--Scientific Monthly
"Any young person seeking a career in the sciences would do well to ponder this important contribution to the teacher's art."--A. C. Schaeffer, American Journal of Psychology
"Every mathematics student should experience and live this book"--Mathematics Magazine
"In an age that all solutions should be provided with the least possible effort, this book brings a very important message: mathematics and problem solving in general needs a lot of practice and experience obtained by challenging creative thinking, and certainly not by copying predefined recipes provided by others. Let's hope this classic will remain a source of inspiration for several generations to come."--A. Bultheel, European Mathematical Society --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
George Polya (1887-1985) was a Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University.
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Buy this book for any young person who shows an interest in mathematics. I feel it will contribute to their mathematical development
George Polya had the reputation of a very great teacher and inspirer of students of mathematics as well as making original contributions of his own. I recommend it to any young person (or anyone)as an excellent introduction to mathematical thinking.
And that is essentially what the book is. You will not get a list of algorithms to take the creativity and hard work out of mathematical problem solving (frankly, that'd no more be a good thing than taking the creativity and hard work out of sport). What you will get is a discussion of thought processes that professional mathematicians use, probably unconsciously at that stage of education, that may help you make headway on your problem. Essentially, 'What are fruitful questions to ask when I don't know how to proceed or even begin?' (Hint: don't just sit there and stare at it waiting for the muse to strike you.) In fact, you probably use some of these already but don't even realise you're using the same strategy over and over again. In this way, Polya has done what mathematicians do: he has abstracted, generalised and systematised a hitherto hodgepodge of problem-solving recipes used implicitly in particular situations.
A simple example for when you get stuck: 'Can you rewrite the equation?' I cannot count how many times I have fallen into this trap, realising after I've given up on a problem that the way to proceed would've jumped out at me had I only thought to rewrite it in a different form. On one level, it might simply be that you, personally, are really quite uncomfortable with a particular form of notation. Rewriting things might well put you at psychological ease with more familiar forms, or forms you're much better practised at manipulating. Hate Leibniz notation for your calculus? Why not rewrite it as Newtonian to solve your problem, then translate back into Leibniz? This strategy, in fact, is what we do all the time - when you learn trig identities or to move between forms of vectors, say, you are implicitly learning the strategy: 'Rewrite the equation to make it easier to deal with.'
The other reason might simply be that by rewriting it, the solution jumps out at you. This is what happens whenever you multiply out, factor, substitute into equations etc. Just because your question doesn't specify you need to do something, doesn't mean you aren't allowed to try it! But it has to occur to you first to rewrite your problem into an equivalent form, in order for the light at the end of the tunnel to reach you. And really this is something you do already: whenever you look up a word in a dictionary, you're essentially seeing the term which you don't understand rewritten as something you do understand. Then you can proceed with your paragraph, just like you can then proceed with your mathematical problem.
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Mine were to understand those typical maths puzzle book type problems and problems in general.Read more
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