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9 ways to get out of being stuck on a problem

Pretty much my life lately has been being stuck on math problems.

The transition to graduate school hasn't been quite the wallop in the face I feared it would be. Luckily, my undergrad professors prepared me fairly well for graduate study by giving me problems that I got stuck on frequently. The main difference between graduate and undergrad seems to be that I am stuck for a much longer period of time now, and the progress I make on a homework set or problem in a day seems minimal (and thus extremely discouraging).

So what can you do when you're stuck on a problem? Give up? Well . . . no. At least you should try the problem for a while first. Here are a few things that have helped me when I'm stuck, or have helped me get started on a problem that looks intimidating:

Writing down definitions and theorems. This allows you to examine the tools you've got for solving the problem. If the proof is a follow-your-nose type problem (and not many of those exist the farther you g…

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