The first step in the problem solving process is to correctly identify the problem. The next is to explore, identify, and choose a problem solving strategy. The third step in the process is to correctly implement the strategy chosen. But what happens when a student swears his/her strategy isn’t working? Usually, they have a problem solving habit that I might categorize as “malfunctioning” (not effective). Let’s look at the worst problem solving habits that some of your students just might have.
Top Ten Worst Problem Solving Habits1) Trying to do it all in your head; not writing anything down.
2) Arbitrarily choosing a strategy.
3) Staying with a strategy when it is not working.
4) Giving up on a strategy too early.
5) Getting fixated on a single strategy and trying to use it for everything.
6) Not asking yourself: “Does this make sense?”
7) Being afraid to ask for help.
8) Not checking your answer.
9) Not noticing patterns.
10) Going through the motions instead of thinking.
The student should be asking…
1) Have I shown an adequate amount of work to demonstrate what strategy (ies) I have used?
2) Is there more than one strategy which I could use to solve this problem?
3) Does choosing one strategy over another make the implementation easier?
4) Does the strategy I have chosen use any tables, charts, formulas or properties I need to review?
5) What technology or manipulatives could I use to help me solve the problem?
As math teachers, what can we do in the classroom to guide this kind of thinking?