Skillbuilder Handbook Problem-Solving Skills

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títuloSkillbuilder Handbook Problem-Solving Skills
fecha de publicación24.01.2016
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tipoDocumentos > Biología > Documentos
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Student Resources

For students and parents/guardians

This skillbuilder handbook helps you sharpen your problem-solving skills so you can get the most out of reading and understanding scientific writing and data. Improving skills such as making comparisons, analyzing infor–mation, reading time lines, and using graphic organ izers also can help you boost your test scores. In addition, you'll find useful instruc–tions on how to hold a debate and a review of math skills.

The reference handbook is another tool that will assist you. The classification tables, word origins, and the periodic table of the elements are resources that will help increase your comprehension.


Skillbuilder Handbook

Problem-Solving Skills

Make Comparisons

Why learn this skill?

Suppose you want to buy portable MP3 music player, and you must choose between three models. You would probably compare the characteristics of the three models, such as price, amount of mem–ory, sound quality, and size to determine which model is best for you. In the study of biology, you often make comparisons between the structures and functions of organisms. You will also compare scientific discoveries or events from one time period with those from another period.
Learn the Skill

When making comparisons, you examine two or more items, groups, situations, events, or theories. You must first decide what will be compared and which characteristics you will use to compare them. Then identify any similarities and differences.

For example, comparisons can be made between the two illustrations on this page. The different struc–tures of the animal cell can be compared to the differ–ent structures of the plant cell. By reading the labels, you can see that both types of cells have a nucleus.
Practice the Skill

Create a table with the heading Animal and Plant Cells. Make three columns. Label the first column Cell Structures. Label the second column Animal Cells. Label the third column Plant Cells. List all the cell structures in the first column. Place a check mark under either Animal Cell or Plant Cell or both if that structure is shown in the illustration. When you have finished the table, answer these questions.

  1. What items are being compared? How are they being compared?

  2. What structures do animal and plant cells have in common?

  3. What structures are unique to animal cells? What structures are unique to plant cells?


Analyze Information

Why learn this skill?

Analyzing, or looking at separate parts of some–thing to understand the entire piece, is a way to think critically about written work. The ability to analyze information is important when determining which ideas are the most important.
Learn the Skill

To analyze information, use the following steps:

  • • identify the topic being discussed

  • • examine how the information is organized— identify the main points

  • • summarize the information in your own words, and then make a statement based on your under–standing of the topic and what you already know
Practice the Skill

Read the following excerpt from National Geographic. Use the steps listed above to analyze the information and answer the questions that follow.

Like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel, an enormous tentacled creature looms out of the inky blackness of the deep Pacific waters. But this isn't sci–ence fiction. A set of extraordinary images captured by Japanese scientists marks the first-ever record of a live giant squid (Architeuthis) in the wild.

The animal—which measures roughly 8 meters long—was photographed 900 meters beneath the North Pacific Ocean. Japanese scientists attracted the squid toward cameras attached to a baited fishing line. The scientists say they snapped more than 500 images of the massive cephalopod before it broke free after snagging itself on a hook. They also recovered one of the giant squid's two longest tentacles, which severed during its struggle.

The photo sequence, taken off Japan's Ogasawara Islands in September 2004, shows the squid homing in on the baited line and enveloping it in “a ball of tenta–cles.?? Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum in Tokyo and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association report their observations in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Architeuthis appears to be a much more active pred– ator than previously suspected, using its elongated feeding tentacles to strike and tangle prey?? the researchers write. They add that the squid was found feeding at depths where no light penetrates even during the day.

Giant squid on a fishing line
Squid expert Martin Collins of the British Antarctic Survey based in Cambridge, England is especially interested in clues the images might provide to the way giant squid swim and hunt in the deep ocean.

Collins says there were two competing schools of thought among giant squid experts. “One was the idea that [giant squid] were fairly inactive and just drifted around, dangling their tentacles below them like fish–ing lures to catch what came by,?? he said.

The other theory was that they were actually quite active. This new evidence supports this, suggesting they are active predators which can move reasonably quickly. The efforts the squid went to untangle itself [from the baited fishing line] also shows they are capa–ble of quite strong and rapid movement,?? he added.

  1. What topic is being discussed?

  2. What are the main points of the article?

  3. Summarize the information in this article, and then provide your analysis based on this infor–mation and your own knowledge.


Synthesize Information

Why learn this skill?

The skill of synthesizing involves combining and analyzing information gathered from separate sources or at different times to make logical connec–tions. Being able to synthesize information can be a useful skill for you as a student when you need to gather data from several sources for a report or a presentation.
Learn the Skill

Follow these steps to synthesize information:

  • • select important and relevant information

  • • analyze the information and build connections

  • • reinforce or modify the connections as you acquire new information

Suppose you need to write a research paper on endangered species. You would need to synthesize what you learn to inform others. You could begin by detailing the ideas and information you already have about endangered species. A table such as the one below could help you categorize the facts.

Table SH.1 Endangered Species Statistics


October 2000

October 2005




Foreign 1



















































Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Then you could select a passage about endan–gered species like the sample below, which is adapted from Chapter 5.

Stable ecosystems can be changed by the activity of other organisms, climate, or natural disasters. This natural process of extinctions is not what scientists are worried about. Many worry about a recent increase in the rate of extinction.

One of the factors that is increasing the current rate of extinction is the overexploitation, or excessive use, of species that have economic values. Historically, overex–ploitation was the primary cause of species extinction. However, the number one cause of species extinction today is the loss or destruction of habitat.

There are several ways that species can lose their habitats. If a habitat is destroyed or disrupted, the native species might have to relocate or die. For exam–ple, humans are clearing areas of tropical rain forests and are replacing the native plants with agricultural crops or grazing lands.
Practice the Skill

Use the table and the passage on this page to answer these questions.

  1. What information is presented in the table?

  2. What is the main idea of the passage? What information does the passage add to your knowl–edge about the topic?

  3. By synthesizing the two sources and using your own knowledge, what conclusions can you draw about habitat conservation practices for endan–gered species?

  4. Using what you learned in your studies and from this activity, contrast two types of habitat changes and their effects on the ecosystem.


Take Notes and Outline

Why learn this skill?

One of the best ways to remember something is to write it down. Taking notes—writing down infor–mation in a brief and orderly format—not only helps you remember, but also makes studying easier.
Learn the Skill

There are several styles of note taking, but all explain and put information in a logical order. As you read, identify and summarize the main ideas and details that support them and write them in your notes. Paraphrase, that is, state in your own words, the information rather then copying it directly from the text. Using note cards or develop–ing a personal “shorthand??—using symbols to rep–resent words—can help.

You might also find it helpful to create an outline when taking notes. When outlining material, first read the material to identify the main ideas. In text–books, section headings provide clues to main topics. Identify the subheadings. Place supporting details under the appropriate heading. The basic pattern for outlines is as follows:

Practice the Skill

Read the following excerpt from National Geographic. Use the steps you just read about to take notes or create an outline. Then answer the ques–tions that follow.

Mapping the three billion letters of the human genome has helped researchers better understand the 99.9 percent of DNA that is identical in all humans. Now a new project aims to map the 0.1 percent of DNA where differences occur. The International HapMap Project will look at variations that dictate susceptibility to genetic influences, such as environ–mental toxins and inherited diseases.

Researchers “read?? DNA code by its structural units called nucleotides. These chemical building blocks are designated by the letters A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine), and T (thymine). Single-letter variations in genes—called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (pronounced “snips??)—are often the culprits behind a wide range of genetic diseases. For example, changing an A to a T in the gene for the blood mol–ecule hemoglobin causes sickle cell anemia.

But most diseases and disorders are not caused by a single gene. Instead they are caused by a complex com–bination of linked genetic variations at multiple sites on different chromosomes.

Haplotypes are sets of adjacent SNPs that are closely associated and are inherited as a group. Certain haplotypes are known to have a role in diseases, including Alzheimer's, deep vein thrombosis, type 2 diabetes, and age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.

  1. What is the main topic of the article?

  2. What are the first, second, and third ideas?

  3. Name one detail for each of the ideas.

  4. Name one subdetail for each of the details.


Understand Cause and Effect

Why learn this skill?

In order to understand an event, you should look for how that event or chain of events came about. When scientists are unsure of the cause for an event, they often design experiments. Although there might be an explanation, an experiment should be per–formed to be certain the cause created the event you observed. This process examines the causes and effects of events.
Learn the Skill

Every human body regulates its own temperature to maintain conditions suitable for survival. Exercise causes a body to heat up. The stimulated nerves in the skin are the effect, or result, of exercise. The fig–ure below shows how one event—the cause—led to another—the effect.
You can also identify cause-and-effect relation–ships in sentences from clue words such as:



that is why

due to

led to

for this reason

so that




as a result

in order to

Read the sample sentences below.

A message is sent to sweat glands. As a result, perspiration occurs.??

In the example above, the cause is a message being sent. The cause-and-effect clue words “as a result?? tell you that the perspiration is the effect of the message.

In a chain of events, an effect often becomes the cause of other events. The next chart shows the complete chain of events that occur when exercise raises body temperature and the body returns to homeostasis.

Practice the Skill

Make a chart, like the one above, showing which events are causes and which are effects using these sentences. Use Chapter 33 to help you.

  1. The hair cells respond by generating nerve impulses in the auditory nerve and transmitting them to the brain.

  2. As the stapes vibrates, it causes the oval window to move back and forth.

  3. Sound waves enter the auditory canal and cause the eardrum to vibrate.

  4. Vibrations cause the fluid inside the cochlea to move like a wave against the hair cells.

  5. Vibrations travel through the malleus, the incus, and the stapes.


Read a Time Line

Why learn this skill?

When you read a time line such as the one above, you see not only when an event took place, but also what events took place before and after it. A time line can help you develop the skill of chronological think–ing. Devel oping a strong sense of chronology—when and in what order events took place—will help you examine relationships among the events. It will also help you understand the causes or effects of events.

¦ Figure 7.1 Microscopes in Focus The invention of microscopes, improvements to the instruments, and new microscope tech–niques have led to the development of the cell theory and a better understanding of cells.
Source: Chapter 7, Section 1 pp. 182-183
Learn the Skill

A time line is a linear chart that list events that occurred on specific dates. The number of years between dates at the begining and end of the time line is the time span. A time line that begins in 1910 and ends in 1920 has a ten-year time span. Some time lines span centuries. Examine the time lines below. What time spans do they cover?

Time lines are usually divided into smaller parts called time intervals. On the two time lines below, the first time line has a 300-year time span divided into 100-year time intervals. The second time line has a six-year time span divided into two-year time intervals.

Practice the Skill

Study the time line above and then answer these questions.

  1. What time span and intervals appear on this time line?

  2. Which scientist was the first to observe cells with a microscope?

  3. How many years after Robert Hooke observed cork did Ernest Everett Just write Biology of the Cell Surface?

  4. What was the time span between the creation of the first microscope and the use of the scanning tunneling microscope to see individual atoms.

Analyze Media Sources

Why learn this skill?

To stay informed, people use a variety of media sources, including print media, broadcast media, and electronic media. The Internet has become an espe–cially valuable research tool. It is convenient to use, and the information contained on the Internet is plentiful. Whichever media source you use to gather information, it is important to analyze the source to determine its accuracy and reliability.
Learn the Skill

There are a number of issues to consider when analyzing a media source. Most important is to check the accuracy of the source and content. The author and publisher or sponsors should be credible and clearly indicated. To analyze print media or broadcast media, ask yourself the following questions:

  • • Is the information current?

  • • Are the resources revealed?

  • • Is more than one resource used?

  • • Is the information biased?

  • • Does the information represent both sides of an issue?

  • • Is the information reported firsthand or secondhand?

For electronic media, ask yourself these questions in addition to the ones above.

  • • Is the author credible and clearly identified? Web site addresses that end,.gov, tend to be credible and contain reliable information.

  • • Are the facts on the Web site documented?

  • • Are the links within the Web site appropriate and current?

  • • Does the Web site contain links to other useful resources?
Practice the Skill

To analyze print media, choose two articles, one from a newspaper and the other from a newsmaga–zine, on an issue on which public opinion is divided. Then, answer these questions.

  1. What points are the articles trying to make? Were the articles successful? Can the facts be verified?

  2. Did either article reflect a bias toward one view–point or another? List any unsupported statements.

  1. Was the information reported firsthand or sec–ondhand? Do the articles seem to represent both sides fairly?

  2. How many resources can you identify in the arti–cles? List them.

To analyze electronic media, visit and select Web Links. Choose one link from the list, read the information on that Web site, and then answer these questions.

  1. Who is the author or sponsor of the Web site?

  2. What links does the Web site contain? How are they appropriate to the topic?

  3. What resources were used for the information on the Web site?


Use Graphic Organizers

Why learn this skill?

While you read this textbook, you will be looking for important ideas or concepts. One way to arrange these ideas is to create a graphic organizer. In addi–tion to FoldablesTM, you will find various other graphic organizers throughout your book. Some organizers show a sequence, or flow, of events. Other organizers emphasize the relationship between con–cepts. Develop your own organizers to help you bet–ter understand and remember what you read.
Learn the Skill

An events chain concept map describes a sequence of events, such as stages of a process or procedure. When making an events-chain map, first identify the event that starts the sequence and add events in chron–ological order until you reach an outcome.
In a cycle concept map, the series of events do not produce a final outcome. The event that appears to be the final event relates back to the event that appears to be the initiating event. Therefore, the cycle repeats itself.

Blood Flow in the Body
A network tree concept map shows the relation–ship among concepts, which are written in order from general to specific. The words written on the lines between the circles, called linking words, describe the relationships among the concepts; the concepts and the linking words can form a sentence.

Practice the Skill

  1. Create an events chain concept map that describes the process of hearing the ring of a bell. Begin with sound waves entering the outer ear. End with hearing the bell ring. Use Chapter 33 to help you.

  2. Create a cycle concept map of human respira–tion. Make sure that the cycle is complete with the event that appears to be the final event relat–ing back to the event that appears to be the start–ing event. Go to Chapter 34 for help.

  3. Create a network tree concept map with these words: Biomes, aquatic biomes, terrestrial biomes, marine biomes, estuary biomes, freshwater biomes, desert, grasslands, temperate forest, salt water, mixed waters, freshwater, sparse plant life, grasses, and broad-leaved trees. Add linking words to describe the relationships between concepts. Refer to Chapter 3 for help.


Debate Skills

New research leads to new scientific information. There are often opposing points of view on how this research is conducted, how it is interpreted, and how it is communicated. The Biology and Society features in your book offer a chance to debate a current controversial topic. Here is an overview on how to conduct a debate.
Choose a Position and Research

First, choose a scientific issue that has at least two opposing viewpoints. The issue can come from cur–rent events, your textbook, or your teacher. These topics could include human cloning or environ–mental issues. Topics are stated as affirmative decla–rations, such as “Cloning human beings is beneficial to society.??

One speaker will argue the viewpoint that agrees with the statement, called the positive position, and another speaker will argue the viewpoint that dis–agrees with the statement, called the negative posi–tion. Either individually or with a group, choose the position for which you will argue. The viewpoint that you choose does not have to reflect your per–sonal belief. The purpose of debate is to create a strong argument supported by scientific evidence.

After choosing your position, conduct research to support your viewpoint. Use resources in your media center or library to find articles, or use your textbook to gather evidence to support your argu–ment. A strong argument is supported by scientific evidence, expert opinions, and your own analysis of the issue. Research the opposing position also. Becoming aware of what points the other side might argue will help you to strengthen the evidence for your position.

Hold the Debate

You will have a specific amount of time, deter–mined by your teacher, in which to present your argument. Organize your speech to fit within the time limit: explain the viewpoint that you will be arguing, present an analysis of your evidence, and conclude by summing up your most important points. Try to vary the elements of your argument. Your speech should not be a list of facts, a reading of a newspaper article, or a statement of your personal opinion, but an analysis of your evidence in an organ ized manner. It is also important to remember that you must never make personal attacks against your opponent. Argue the issue. You will be evalu–ated on your overall presentation, organization and development of ideas, and strength of support for your argument.

Additional Roles There are other roles that you or your classmates can play in a debate. You can act as the timekeeper. The timekeeper times the length of the debaters' speeches and gives quiet signals to the speaker when time is almost up (usually a hand signal).

You can also act as a judge. There are important elements to look for when judging a speech: an introduction that tells the audience what position the speaker will be arguing, strong evidence that supports the speaker's position, and organization. The speaker also must speak clearly and loudly enough for everyone to hear. It is helpful to take notes during the debate to summarize the main points of each side's argument. Then, decide which debater presented the strongest argument for his or her position. You can have a class discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the debate and other viewpoints on this issue that could be argued.

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Skillbuilder Handbook Problem-Solving Skills iconThe main objective of this course is to strengthen students' oral...

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