Glossary Beta 2

Heuristic
refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Where an exhaustive search is impractical, heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution. Examples of this method include using a rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, or common sense.

In more precise terms, heuristics are strategies using readily accessible, though loosely applicable, information to control problem solving in human beings and machines.

The most fundamental heuristic is trial and error, which can be used in everything from matching nuts and bolts to finding the values of variables in algebra problems. Others include: If you are having difficulty understanding a problem, try drawing a picture. If you can’t find a solution, try assuming that you have a solution and seeing what you can derive from that (“working backward”). If the problem is abstract, try examining a concrete example.
Try solving a more general problem first (the “inventor’s paradox”: the more ambitious plan may have more chances of success).

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