Why I fail to solve problems ?
The most difficult subject in this semester for me is 'Design and Analysis of Algorithms'. I have been solving a number of problems with the degree of difficulty much higher than what I have been solving earlier in my under-graduate courses. I am failing more often than I have been succeeding. When I fail, I find I fail for the following reasons :
- Focus on restricted lines of inquiry : When given a problem, I try to solve with one or two of the known lines of inquiry such as Proof of Induction or Proof by Contradiction using the obvious bases. But for many problems the bases for induction or the contradiction is not very obvious, and in many problems - they are not even the right lines of inquiry. So, what happens now is that I am boxed in with known lines of inquiry
- Giving up too early : For some problems, a technique may not be look promising in the first instance. What I do is give up entirely, and follow some other technique and go no where. And once I give up something, it takes a lot of time and effort to get back to the given-up line of reasoning.
- Not giving up early : In some cases, I follow a wrong lead and do not give up early enough. The trouble with the giving up vs. not giving up is that you never know what is applicable for the problem at hand. Should I give up and try something else ? (or) Should I keep going on this line of inquiry ? Some students are able identify it faster. Its takes a longer time for me.
- Lack of Internal Feedback : When I observe those people who solve problems faster, I see that they have a sense of internal feedback, that strikes back when they have a wrong lead. This sense is quicker and faster for some. Some times, I stare at a problem for long time, with no feedback what so ever internally. Is there a way to develop such a skill ?
These are not necessarily the reasons why I am unable to solve the problem. They are the places where I get stuck. When I see that some one else in the class has found the solution, I just see where I am and it is mostly one of the above! I do find that in many cases I am able to eventually find a solution, only that it takes a longer time for me than the better quarter or one-third of the class.
The most interesting thing about these reasons is that it is NEVER the case that some one solved the problem using a technique that I have never heard. It is always something I know, if I only I had thought 'HARD' enough! But is 'HARD' the right way to think ? Prof. Diwan says, "Just practice!"