Problem Posing

My college is now accepting applications from its students for summer research. I met with my first student today, and I fortunately have a handful of research questions that would work for him. However, I find this to be a very difficult task; heck, I find it difficult to come up with my own research questions.

Last semester, I started trying to fix my lack of questions by creating one question every other day. The question does not need to be good, but it has to be something that could theoretically be a research question. I was not as successful as I would have liked, although I did come up with one third of the questions I had hoped for. I used a couple of them with my student.

This is one of my weaknesses—I am not very good at creating questions. This makes me think that I should nurture this quality in my students, lest they end up like me. I think I will re-read The Art of Problem Posing, which was recommended to me by Juliana Belding.

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4 Responses to “Problem Posing”

  1. ericakathryn Says:

    I think coming up with questions is the hardest thing about all of this. But I’ve discovered that I’m a lot better at it than students are; you are too. There’s nothing wrong with finding it hard, because it IS hard. It takes a lot of background as well as a lot of curiosity.

  2. JP Says:

    I don’t know what exactly kind of questions or students you’re looking for, but I’ve had roughly the same problem (senior honors thesis and masters problems) and I’ve come up with a three part solution to that problem:

    (1) Catalan numbers.

    (2) Catalan numbers.

    (3) Catalan numbers.

    Coming up with and proving things about generalizations of Catalan numbers could probably pretty easily solve that problem for the rest of my life.

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