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.
- Trying to do it all in your head; not writing anything down.
- Arbitrarily choosing a strategy.
- Staying with a strategy when it is not working.
- Giving up on a strategy too early.
- Getting fixated on a single strategy and trying to use it for everything.
- Not asking yourself: “Does this make sense?”
- Being afraid to ask for help.
- Not checking your answer.
- Not noticing patterns.
- Going through the motions instead of thinking.
The student should be asking...
- Have I shown an adequate amount of work to demonstrate what strategy I have used?
- Is there more than one strategy which I could use to solve this problem?
- Does choosing one strategy over another make the implementation easier?
- Does the strategy I have chosen use any tables, charts, formulas or properties I need to review
- What technology or manipulatives could I use to help me solve the problem?
As mathematics teachers, what can we do in the
classroom to guide this kind of thinking?