The study of mathematics should emphasize problem solving so that students can use and apply a wide variety of strategies to investigate and understand mathematical content. In this way, they acquire confidence in using mathematics meaningfully and the assurance that they can be successful in math.
But what is a real problem that requires problem solving? A real problem solving problem presents a challenge that cannot be resolved by some routine procedure known to the student and where the student accepts the challenge! Now, there's the dilemma, students who actually accept the challenge and are persistent enough to solve the problem.
What can we, as math instructors, do when students become frustrated, exasperated and discouraged and say they are stuck? Let's look at ten ways to help them get "unstuck".
Top Ten Ways to Get Unstuck
- Re-read the problem.
- Modify your strategy.
- Change your strategy.
- Combine your strategy with another strategy.
- Look at the problem from a new perspective.
- Look at the answer.
- Look at other similar problems.
- Ask for help.
- Wait awhile and then try again.
- All of the above.