Poyla’s
Recipe for Problem Solving: An Overview
From: Polya, George. How to solve it. (Princeton 1945).
Label for Step 
Focus of Step 
Things to Consider 
Helpful Procedures 

1. Understanding the Problem 
You have to understand the problem. a) What is the unknown? b) What are the data? c) What is the condition? 
Is it possible to satisfy the condition? Is the condition sufficient to determine the unknown? It is insufficient? Or redundant? Or contradictory? 
Draw a figure. Introduce suitable notation. Separate the various parts of the condition. 

2. Devising a Plan 
Find the connection between the data and the unknown. 
Have you seen the same problem in a slightly different form? Do you know a related problem? Or a theorem that could be helpful? 
Look at the unknown! Try to think of a familiar problem having the same or similar unknown. 

3. Carrying out the Plan 
Carrying out your plan of the solution, check each step. 
Can you see clearly that each step is correct? 
Can you prove that each step is correct? 

4. Looking Back 
Examine the solution you obtained. a) Can you check the result? b) Can you check the argument? 
Can you derive the result differently? Can you see the result at a glance? 
Can you use the result, or the method, for some other problem? 


