• One aspect of chemistry is being able to deal with "word problems," problems that are stated verbally, but have a numerical answer.  The key to sucess in problem solving is practice.  As you practice, you will find that you can improve your skills by following these steps:
              Step 1.  Analyze the problem.  Read the problem carefully for understanding.  What does it say? Draw any picture or diagram that will help you visualize the problem.  Write down the data you are given.  Also, identify the quantity that you need to obtain (the unknown), and write it down.
              Step 2.  Develop a plan for solving the problem.  Consider the possible paths between the given information and the unknown.  What principles or equations relate the known data to the unknown?  Recognize that some data may not be given explicitly in the problem; you may be expected to know certain quantities ( such as Avogadro's number) or look them up in tables (such as atomic weights).  Recognize also that your plan may involve a single step or a series of steps with intermediate answers.
              Step 3.  Solve the problem.  Use the known information and suitable equations or relationships to solve for the unknown.  Be careful with significant figures, signs and units.
              Step 4.  Check the solution.  Read the problem again to make sure you have found all the solutions asked for in the problem.  Does your answer make sense?  That is, is the answer outrageously large or small, or is it in the ballpark?  Finally, are the units and significant figures correct?