Since I don't know your specific situation, I could be completely misinterpreting what you mean. But it seems you have 0% "figure out the problem".

Math isn't a subject that has to be learned the way foreign language or geography has to be learned. If you don't have something described to you in a book, then you absolutely need another reference to learn most subjects (such as a TA, Lecture, or Internet).

But with math you never need a reference for anything but definitions, and most definitions should be obvious anyway. There is always a first person to solve a math problem, and he had no references.

Like I said, I could be completely misreading your situation, but from what you wrote, it sounds like if there isn't a template for how to solve every single problem type that you give up. If all you know how to do is follow methods and change numbers around here and there, then you aren't learning math.

The greatest instruction anyone can give a person who pursues math is simply to ask a question that they can solve if they try. Many of us who study math seriously love nothing more than to be given a problem that's just barely out of reach.

That and Physics is the same way.

It's probably why those subjects are "hard" because they require creativity and inspiration to actually do - it's problem solving at its simplest level and it's what those in the engineering fields thrive on.

Anyhow, if you're struck trying to do math problems, you have to realize that they all follow the same pattern. After the subject is introduced, the first few problems will be solved by direct application of the lesson. Then the next few will be ones applying the current lesson and previous lessons. It all accumulates until the final set of problems involves a bunch of skills from the text, from your past math education, and so on.

And if you're struggling, the goal is not do just the required problems, but to start at the beginning of the problem set.and do them all. Yes, it's beyond the assignment, but you have to realize that the assignment is just the tip of the iceberg - a good prof already tells you that the problem set they assign is hard, and to really do it, a good student needs to do the entire set.

Same goes for physics problems. The first few questions directly apply equations and formulas from the chapter. Then the next ones apply several concepts together until you get to the mega one that pulls in multiple methods. And many even have multiple ways of tackling the problem that are correct. (Previous problems will lead y ou down each path thent he final one lets you decide which one you use). On an exam, that's a lifesaver because it lets you try both ways and if you don't get the same answer, you messed up.

The goal is to realize that the text is giving you the tools, the probme is to string those tools together. It's like programming or engineering.

And sometimes the most satisfying problems are the ones that look like they're impossible,but when you start realizing what you have, where you need to go, and little brain power and then AHA!

Hell, one trick I do is you write down everything you know that was given in the problem. Then figure out what you need to answer, and figure out what gets you there. And draw pictures, schematics, whatever to illustrate those factors you know, what you don't, and the pieces you do have. And the pieces that are implied