Problem Solving – Is it Teachable?

This is the second in the online book study series of What’s Your Math Problem?

In Chapter 1 of What’s Your Math Problem?, Linda Gojak gives some initial thoughts on learning and teaching problem solving.

She introduces the concepts of routine problems and non-routine problems.

Routine problems are what you typically see at the end of a problem set in a traditional textbook. “In solving routine problems, the learner reproduces and applies a new procedure,” Gojak writes.

Non-routine problems, or rich problems, are the way of the world. They are the things grown-ups solve everyday effortlessly, and often don’t think of them as math problems.

Is solving non-routine problems teachable?

There is a divergence between the way traditional word problems are taught to kids and how grown-ups handle the rich problems in their lives. What’s Your Math Problem? attempts to distill and label each strategy of what grown-ups naturally do, so that we can teach these strategies to our children.

To make this work, knowledge of the various strategies is important. So Gojak labels, defines and gives examples of each strategy throughout the book.

This method of teaching problem solving to children will work if an instructor is careful not to force the use of a particular strategy.

Offer a strategy, but don’t force it.

The idea is to label and clarify each problem solving strategy so it can be one of the options in the toolbox of problem-solving for each child.

As students learn a strategy, teachers shouldn’t require it be used “so they can practice it.” Instead it should be offered and encouraged, but allowed to be tossed aside if the student prefers another method.

And caution should be used to ensure problem solving using these various strategies NOT turn into another algorithm.

Read more about it…

Don’t forget to check out Math Coach’s Corner for some other thoughts on Chapter 1 of What’s Your Math Problem? Make sure to scroll to the bottom, because others are linking up their thoughts and opinions!

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