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Trial and error method: advantages and disadvantages

Humanity originates several thousand years ago. And throughout this time it has been developing tirelessly. The reasons for this were always a lot, but without the ingenuity of man it simply would not be possible. The trial and error method was and is currently one of the main.

Description of the method

Clearly fixed in historical documents, the application of this method is not enough. But, despite this, he deserves special attention.

The trial and error method is a method in which the solution of a problem is achieved by selecting variants until the result is correct (for example, in mathematics) or acceptable (when new methods are invented in science).

Mankind has always used this method. Approximately a century ago, psychologists tried to find a common between people who used this way of knowing. And they succeeded. A person who is looking for an answer to the task is forced to select options, put experiments and look at the result. This continues until there is an insight on this issue. The experimenter enters a new stage of thinking in this matter.

Method in world history

One of the most famous people who applied this method was Edison. Everyone knows his history of lighting a lamp. He experimented until it happened. But Edison perfected this method. When searching for a solution, he shared tasks between people who worked for him. Accordingly, the material on the topic was obtained much more than with the work of one person. And based on the data obtained, the trial and error method was a great success in Edison's work. Thanks to this person, research institutes have appeared, which, among other things, use this method.

Degrees of difficulty

This method has several levels of complexity. They were so divided for better assimilation. The task of the first level is considered easy, and a little effort is spent on finding its solution. But it does not have many options. With an increase in the degree of difficulty, the complexity of the task is growing. The trial and error method of class 5 is the most difficult and time consuming.

It should be borne in mind that as the level of complexity increases, so does the amount of knowledge that a person possesses. To better understand what is at stake, consider the technique. The first and second levels allow inventors to improve it. At the last stage of complexity, a completely new product is created.

For example, a case is known when young people took the topic of the thesis for a difficult task from aeronavigation. The students did not have the same knowledge as many scientists who worked in this field, but thanks to a wide range of knowledge of the children they could find the answer. And the sphere of solution turned out to be in the most confectionery business that is the most remote from science. It would seem that this is impossible, but it is a fact. Young people even received a copyright certificate for their invention.


The first advantage can be rightly considered a creative approach. Tasks by trial and error solved allow you to use both hemispheres of the brain to find the answer.

It is worthwhile to give an example of how boats were built. Excavations show how for centuries the part for the part has changed shape. Researchers constantly tried something new. If the boat was drowning, then this form was deleted, if it remained to stay on the water, then take it into consideration. Thus, in the end, a compromise solution was found.

If the task is not too complicated, then this method takes a little time. Some emerging problems can have ten options, one or two of which will turn out to be correct. But if we consider, for example, robotics, then in this case without the use of other methods of research can drag on for decades and bring millions of options.

Separation of tasks into several levels makes it possible to estimate how fast and possible the solution search is. This reduces the time for decision making. And for complex tasks, you can use the trial and error method in parallel with others.

Disadvantages of the method

With the development of technology and science, this method began to lose its popularity.

In some areas it is simply irrational to create thousands of samples to change one item at a time. Therefore, often other methods based on specific knowledge are now used. For this, the nature of things began to be studied, the interaction of elements with each other. Mathematical calculations, scientific justifications, experiments and past experience were used.

The trial and error method is still very well used in creativity. But building a car in this way already seems stupid and irrelevant. Therefore, now, at the present level of civilization development, it is necessary to use other methods in the exact sciences for the most part.

Often, in the method under consideration, the problem can describe many completely insignificant things and do not take into account a priori important things. For example, the inventor of penicillin (antibiotic) claimed that, with the right approach, the drug could be invented twenty years earlier. This would help save a huge number of lives.

In complex problems, there are often situations where the question itself lies in one area of knowledge, and its solution is completely different.

Not always the researcher is sure that the answer will be found at all.

The author of the trial and error method

Who has specifically invented this way of knowing, we will never know. More precisely, we know that this was clearly an inventive person, who, most likely, was guided by a desire to improve his life.

In ancient times people were quite limited in many things. Everything was invented by this method. At that time, there was still no fundamental knowledge in the field of physics, mathematics, chemistry, and other important sciences. Therefore, we had to act at random. This is how the fire was extracted to protect from predators, to cook food and to heat the home. Weapons to get food, boats - for movement on rivers. Everything was invented when a person collided with difficulty. But each time the problem solved led to a better quality of life.

It is known that many scientists used this method in their works.

However, it is precisely the description of the method and the active use that we observe in the physiologist Thorndike at the end of the nineteenth century.

Research Thorndike

An example of the method of trial and error can be considered in the scientific works of the scientist-physiologist. He put various behavioral experiments with animals, placing them in special boxes.

One of the experiments looked approximately as follows. A cat placed in a box looks for a way out. The box itself can have 1 variant of opening: it was necessary to press on the spring - and the door swung open. The animal used many actions (so-called tests), and most of them proved unsuccessful. The cat remained in the box. But after some set of options, the animal managed to press the spring and get out of the box. Thus, the cat, getting into the box, in the course of time remembered the variants of the development of events. And I got out of the box in a shorter time.

Thorndike proved that the method is valid, and although the result is not linear, but with time, with the repetition of similar actions, the solution comes almost instantly.

Solving problems by trial and error

There are a lot of examples of this method, but it is worthwhile to give one very interesting one.

In the early twentieth century, lived a well-known designer of engines for aviation Mikulin. At that time, there was a huge amount of air crashes due to magneto, that is, the spark after some flight time disappeared. There have been many experiments and reflections on the cause, but the answer came in a completely unexpected situation.

Alexander Alexandrovich met on the street a man with a black eye. At that moment, it came to him and the insight that a man without one eye sees much worse. He shared this observation with aviator Utochkin. When the second magneto was installed in the aircraft, the number of air crashes significantly decreased. And Utochkin paid for some time after each indicative flight Mikulina money rewards.

Applying the method in mathematics

Quite often, the method of trial and error in mathematics is used in schools as a way of developing logical thinking and checking the speed of finding options. This allows you to diversify the learning process and introduce elements of the game.

Often you can find in school textbooks tasks with the phrase "solve the equation by trial and error." In this case, you need to choose the answer options. When the correct answer is found, it is simply proved practically, that is, the necessary calculations are made. In the end, we make sure that this is the only true answer.

An example of a practical problem

The trial and error method in class 5 mathematics (in recent editions) often appears. Let us give an example.

It is necessary to name which sides a rectangle can have. Provided that the area (S) = 32 cm, and the perimeter (P) = 24 cm.

The solution of this problem: suppose that the length of one side 4. So the length of one more side is the same.

We obtain the following equation:

24 - 4 - 4 = 16

16 divide by 2 = 8

8 cm is the width.

We check using the area formula. S = A * B = 8 * 4 = 32 centimeters. As we see, the solution is right. You can also calculate the perimeter. By the formula, the following calculation is obtained: P = 2 * (A + B) = 2 * (4 + 8) = 24.

In mathematics, the trial and error method is not always great for finding solutions. Often, more appropriate methods can be used, with less time spent. But for the development of thinking this method is available in the arsenal of each teacher.

Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

In TRIZ, the trial and error method is considered one of the most inefficient. When a person finds himself in an unusual difficult situation for him, actions at random are likely to be fruitless. You can spend a lot of time and as a result, do not succeed. The theory of solving inventive problems is based on already known regularities, and other methods of cognition are usually used. Often TRIZ is used in the upbringing of children, making this process interesting and fascinating for the child.


Having considered this method, we can say with confidence that it is quite interesting. Despite the shortcomings, it is often used in solving creative problems.

However, it does not always allow you to achieve the desired result. Never a researcher knows when to stop searching, or maybe it's worth making a couple more efforts and a brilliant invention will be born. Also it is not clear how much time will be spent.

If you decide to use this method to solve a problem, you should understand that the answer can sometimes be in a completely unexpected area. But this allows you to look at the search from different points of view. Perhaps you will have to sketch a few dozen variations, and maybe thousands. But only perseverance and faith in success will lead to the desired result.

Sometimes this method is used as an additional method. For example, at the initial stage to narrow the search. Or when the research was carried out in many ways and reached a dead end. In this case, the creative component of the method will allow us to find a compromise solution to the problem.

The trial and error method is often used in pedagogical activity. It allows children to find their own solutions in various life situations on their own experience. This teaches them to memorize the right types of behavior that are accepted in society.

Artists use this method to find inspiration.

The method is worth trying out in everyday life when solving problems. Perhaps, some things will appear to you in a different way.

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