Many times, calculus problems take a lot of brain juice to find the right answer. They require me to counter the problems with using heuristics while reaping the benefits. The problems include salience of surface similarities (Wait! I saw a "volume" problem yesterday and I just can't do this question the same way.), mental sets (All of the other questions used this formula but now I can't seem to figure out how to use it in this question!), and functional fixedness (Perhaps the equation can be used only if it is slightly tweaked but I don't see it.)
I learn many examples in class and in my homework to give my brain a wider range of options to liken a new problem to. In this way, I can fly through test problems because I know how I did similar homework problems.
I researched several problem solving barriers at www.tuition.com and found some interesting mental blocks: emotional (impatience, frustration, or fear of standing out),perceptual (stereotypes or confusing the problem's perspective), intellectual (lacking knowledge or the ability to use it), and environmental (stress, lack of support and communication, or distractions.
The ways to combat these blocks are logical but yet difficult to carry out consistently. The most basic suggestion is to be methodical in problem solving. This will help eliminate blocks like impatience, stereotypes, and distractions. Also, I have to realize that problems often include obstacles and that these obstacles are not my fault. The final bit of advice is that I should practice using analytical and creative approaches while solving problems so that I can use the full range of my knowledge.