The traditional mathematics professor of the popular legend is absentminded.

He usually appears in public with a lost umbrella in each hand.

He prefers to face the blackboard and to turn his back to the class.

He writes

a, he saysb, he meansc; but it should bed.

Some of his sayings are handed down from generation to generation.

- “In order to solve this differential equation you look at it till a solution occurs to you.”

- “This principle is so perfectly general that no particular application of it is possible.”

- “Geometry is the science of correct reasoning on incorrect figures.”

- “My method to overcome a difficulty is to go round it.”

- “What is the difference between method and device? A method is a device which you used twice.”

If you’re not familiar with Polya’s work, here’s a 4-page summary of his problem-solving method.

Or check out David Butler’s wonderful **Solving Problems Poster**, which encapsulates Pólya’s system in a visual, easy-to-follow way that works with younger students, too.

CREDITS: “Professor” cartoon (top) by André Santana via Pixabay.

THE FINE PRINT: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you follow the book link above and buy something, I’ll earn a small commission (at no cost to you).