Six Ways to Teach Problem-Solving Skills in Math.
The ability of students to solve problems, especially those that involve multiple steps, is becoming a growing source of concern. According to data, students have more trouble solving word problems than they do with computation, so problem-solving and computation should be viewed separately. Why?
Think about this. When we plug in our location to a map on our phone while we’re on the way to a new location, it tells us which lane to be in, avoids detours or collisions, and sometimes even buzzes our watch to remind us to turn. I don’t have to think about it when I’m driving through something like this. I can think about what to make for dinner while paying little attention to my surroundings other than following those instructions. I would seek assistance once more if I were asked to return there because I would forget.
We may be able to give students the ability to learn how to read a map and have multiple ways to get there if we can switch to giving them strategies that force them to think instead of giving them too much support along the way.
Here are six ways that we can start allowing students to think this way so that they can keep going through rigorous problem-solving and find the solution on their own.
1. LINK READING TO PROBLEM-SOLVING.
Anxiety about math problems can be lessened if we remind students that they already have a variety of comprehension skills and strategies they can use to solve them. For instance, you could give them practice strategies like visualizing, acting out the problem with math tools like counters or base 10 blocks, drawing a quick sketch of the problem, telling the story in their own words, etc. can really assist them in utilizing the skills they already possess to lessen the task’s perceived difficulty.
We can break these skills down into specific, brief lessons so that students can experiment on their own. An illustration of an anchor chart that they can use to visualize is provided here. By dividing comprehension into specific skills, students can become more independent and teachers can focus their problem-solving instruction more precisely. Because of this, students are able to gain self-assurance and dismantle the barriers that exist between reading and math, revealing that they already possess numerous strengths that can be applied to any problem.
2. Avoid forcing students to select a particular operation.
It can be very tempting to instruct students to look for words that might refer to a particular procedure. Even though this might work very well in kindergarten and first grade, it prevents students from developing deep thought skills, just like when our map shows us where to go. It also expires once they reach the upper grades, where those words may appear multiple times in a problem, increasing confusion for students trying to adhere to a rule that may not apply to all problems.
Instead of selecting the operation first, we can encourage a variety of approaches to problem solving. A problem might say, “Joceline has 13 stuffed animals, and Jordan has 17,” for example, in the first grade. Jordan has how many more?” Some students may opt to subtract, while others may simply count to determine the amount in between. If we tell them that “how many more” means to subtract, we are completely removing them from the problem and allowing them to work on it on autopilot without actually solving it or using their comprehension skills to visualize it.
3. Review “Representation” again.
The term “representation” can imply a falsehood. It appears to be something to do after the most common way of tackling. Students may not realize that they need a step in between to support their understanding of what is actually occurring in the problem before moving on to the solution.
Students may find it easier to select a representation that most closely resembles what they are imagining in their minds by employing an anchor chart such as this (lower grade, upper grade). When they sketch it out, it can give them a more clear image of various ways they could take care of the issue.
Consider the following problem: Varush and his family took a trip to visit his grandmother’s house. 710 miles separated us. Three individuals took turns driving there. His mother drove 214 miles. His father traveled 358 miles. The rest were driven by his older sister. How many miles travelled by his sister?
If we were to demonstrate the anchor chart to this student, they most likely would select a number line or a strip diagram to better comprehend the situation.
If we instruct students to always draw base 10 blocks on a place value chart, this may not correspond to the problem’s concept. We deprive students of critical thinking practice and occasionally cause them to become confused when we ask them to match our way of thinking.
4. GIVE THE PROCESS TIME.
We educators sometimes experience a sense of urgency to complete all required tasks. Students need time to just sit with a complex problem and wrestle with it, maybe even leaving it for a while and coming back to it later, when solving it.
This might necessitate giving them fewer problems, but we should make the ones we do give them go deeper. When we allow for peer discussion and collaboration on problem-solving tasks, we can also reduce processing time.
5. Make inquiries that let students think for themselves.
To encourage thinking, questions or prompts for problem-solving should be very open-ended. A way to get students to try something new without taking over their thinking is to tell them to reread the problem or think about the tools or resources that would help them solve it.
Students will be reminded that “good readers and mathematicians reread” and that these skills can also be applied to other content areas.
6. STUDENTS FREQUENTLY USE PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS AS A RESULT OF SPIRAL CONCEPTS.
At the point when understudies don’t need to change in the middle between ideas, they’re not genuinely utilizing profound critical thinking abilities. They may already have a rough idea of the operation or have it in the forefront of their minds due to recent learning. Throughout the school year, as they retain content learning, having a variety of rigorous problem-solving skills in their learning stations and assessments will improve their critical thinking abilities and build more resilience.
Because problem-solving abilities are so abstract, it can be challenging to determine precisely what students require. Sometimes we need to move slowly to move quickly. Students will be better prepared for life and will have more options for getting to where they want to go if we slow down, give them tools to use when they get stuck, and encourage them to be critical thinkers.