How would you eat an elephant?
You may think this question doesn't have anything to do with math, problem solving, or vertical non-permanent surfaces (VNPS).
But hang in there and you'll see what I'm getting at.
First, let's talk about the relationship between how we solve complex math problems and in a similar vein, how we approach real-world issues.
Math, problem solving, and VNPS
You can draw lots of analogies between solving a word problem and resolving a real-world issue.
NOTE: In either scenario, it's important to put your ideas in writing in order to resolve the issue step by step in a visual manner.
And they both are easier to resolve when you have non-permanent surface to write on.
If you're a math student working on a word problem, you have to dissect the question and tackle the problem by taking BITE-SIZE chunks.
In fact, solving more complicated math problems is really just asking yourself the following questions:
What am I looking for?
The first thing you need to do when you get a word problem is read it over carefully. Look for buzzwords, and actually underline or highlight those phrases that tell you EXACTLY what you're looking for.
Next, write those phrases down.
A little note here: You can't solve problems in your head -- you need to work them out.
In fact, the human need to write stuff down is key to getting to the point where you make connections and recognize patterns.
So this is where a horizontal or vertical non-permanent surface like a Wipebook product comes in handy.
What information do I have?
After deciding which information is important, create the core equation using the information in the word problem.
What information do I need?
Determine which facts, figures, and variables are necessary.
Once again, highlight or underline that information in the word problem. And WRITE IT DOWN.
What you're doing is this: As you tackle the word problem, you're concentrating on recording the answers to these sub-questions instead of writing out and analyzing each detail provided.
These same steps work in real life
You can use this very same thought process to approach a real-world problem:
Step one: (What am I looking for?) Describe in writing the problem that you are facing, whether it be a relationship issue, financial problem, or career choice where you must choose between two jobs in two different cities.
Step two: (What information do I have?) Identify the key points to your problem and write them down. If it's a situation where you must decide between selecting one of two job offers, for instance, write down the information that has already been provided to you by each potential employer -- the location, the pay, the benefits, the cost of housing, etc.
Step three: (What information do I need?) Decide if the information already provided is enough. Erase any extraneous data that clouds the issue, and search for additional information online.
Then solve the problem.
And don't forget to use your favorite Wipebook product to capture your problem in writing. As you work through your real-world problem on an erasable writing surface, more factors and variables may reveal themselves.
That's when you start over and rework it.
So, back to the very first question this article posed: Exactly how WOULD you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time, as General Creighton Abrams once said.
In math, as in real life, you must break the problem into parts. Then tackle it, piece by piece.