# Common Math and Science Problem-Solving Mistakes

Often, students of math and science who actually understand the concepts involved in solving a problem will nevertheless fail to solve it correctly. This is usually caused by using an incorrect problem-solving technique. Students who follow a structured, methodical approach to solving problems will perform better on homework assignments and tests alike.

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Reading a problem statement carefully, understanding what is known and what is unknown, and applying the appropriate rules carefully will yield the best results. In addition, trying to avoid the following common mistakes will pay dividends.

1. Solving the wrong problem

Many students don't take the time to read the question carefully and as a result solve a different problem than the one asked for. A student should analyze the problem statement and identify precisely what is wanted for an answer, and what information is given.

2. Failing to pay attention to units

In science, every number has a unit associated with it. Mathematical formulas are only valid if consistent units are used for all variables. Sometimes it will be necessary to convert units for the answer and/or the input variables. In the absence of directions on what units are wanted for the answer, assume Standard International (SI) units for all variables.

3. Losing track of details

There are many examples of this mistake including sign errors, dropping terms, miscopying variables or exponents, dividing by zero, and using other invalid operations. Often, these errors are caused by hurrying.