One can often identify to which topic a challenge belongs – this question is about right triangles; this question is about repeating decimals – but still have no clue as to how to start on the challenge. What should you do? *Engage in successful flailing!*

Think about everything you know about right triangles or repeating decimals. Read the question out loud and then describe it again in different words. Draw a picture, perhaps even one relevant to the problem. Try an example with actual numbers. Mark something on the diagram. And so on.

Read more about this strategy here: Problem Solving Strategy Essay #1: Engage in Successful Flailing

Find other problem-solving strategies you can use on the MAA American Mathematics Competitions and other competitions here.