Young children are innately problem solvers – that is how they learn. Problem-solving is an essential way of learning because it motivates children to connect prior knowledge with new circumstances and to develop and utilize creativity in the process. Therefore, it is paramount that we keep this natural curiosity going when children enter school. We need children to see themselves as successful problem solvers who appreciate a challenge and can persevere when things get difficult.
The ability to solve problems and reason logically are fundamental to mathematics and have long been viewed as key components in any math curriculum. Helping students experience and understand that there are certain ways in which to approach a problem can help set them up for math excellence.
Solving problems: getting started
The steps to problem-solving include:
- Getting started or gathering information
- Working it out
- Going deeper
Kids need to realize that making mistakes is part of the natural process of problem-solving, it is a powerful way to teach the art of analyzing and reflection. Teachers should celebrate and reinforce the concept that there is more than one way to solve a problem, and mistakes are learning opportunities, not disasters.
Embrace an exploratory approach to learning, where children are given time, space and the resources to discover things out for themselves while the teacher plays a supportive role. This creates a learning environment where children are empowered to think mathematically for themselves.
By providing ample opportunities for children to utilize their problem-solving skills, parents and teachers can enhance the experience by asking questions and having discussions. For example, have one child give another child a verbal explanation of how they solved a problem.
“I can solve problems!”
The use of “I can sentences” can change the focus from simple recall to deeper mathematical thinking. When we ask questions, and allow students time to explain their thoughts, we can help our students develop those critical thinking skills necessary for them to be successful.
I can use what I know to solve new problems.
I can solve problems by looking for patterns.
I can think about numbers in many ways.
I can use math tools and explain why I used them.
I can explain my thoughts and try to understand others.
I can show my work in many ways.
I can work carefully and check my work.
As children become more confident in their problem-solving, they develop characteristics such as persistence, as well as build a toolkit of problem-solving strategies. Unfamiliar situations become routine challenges and everyday math encounters in or out of the classroom are stepping stones to achieving proficiency and eventually, excellence in math.
This is a guest post by Jayne Clare, Co-Founder of Teachers With Apps (TWA). TWA is dedicated to understanding child development and knowing the significance of all factors including social, emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being that contribute to a happy and healthy child. TWA field-tests every app/product with a cross-section of students and teachers as part of their review process. TWA only reviews materials that they recommend, eliminating the need for scores, you will only find the teacher-tested technology here, removing the tedium of wading through this vast marketplace. Reviews are a combination of bullet points, narrative and video clips giving a thorough yet concise overview of the resource and how it can be implemented either in a classroom setting or at home. The reviews are authored by teachers, therapists, and educators with a specific expertise in the different ages/content/and special areas. TWA reviewers come from distinct backgrounds with expertise in the differing domains. They field-test and write in-depth reviews and share information from the field-testing in the written evaluations from both a teacher and child perspective.