How to Write a Solution

You've figured out the solution to the problem - fantastic! But you're not finished. Whether you are writing solutions for a competition, a journal, a message board, or just to show off for your friends, you must master the art of communicating your solution clearly. Brilliant ideas and innovative solutions to problems are pretty worthless if you can't communicate them. In this article, we explore many aspects of how to write a clear solution. Below is an index; each page of the article includes a sample 'How Not To' solution and 'How To' solution. One common theme you'll find throughout each point is that every time you make an experienced reader have to think to follow your solution, you lose.

As you read the 'How To' solutions, you may think some of them are overwritten. Indeed, some of them could be condensed. Some steps we chose to prove could probably be cited without proof. However, it is far better to prove too much too clearly than to prove too little. Rarely will a reader complain that a solution is too easy to understand or too easy on the eye.

One note of warning: many of the problems we use for examples are extremely challenging problems. Beginners, and even intermediate students, should not be upset if they have difficulty solving the problems on their own.

Table of Contents for How to Write a Solution
  1. Have a Plan
  2. Readers Are Not Interpreters
  3. U s e  S p a c e
  4. sdrawkcaB knihT, Write Forwards
  5. Name Your Characters
  6. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
  7. Solution Readers, not Mindreaders
  8. Follow the Lemmas
  9. Clear Casework
  10. Proofreed
  11. Bookends
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