Teaching Problem Solving In Math

The focus is on teaching mathematical topics through problem-solving contexts and enquiry-oriented environments which are characterised by the teacher 'helping students construct a deep understanding of mathematical ideas and processes by engaging them in doing mathematics: creating, conjecturing, exploring, testing, and verifying' (Lester et al., 1994, p.154).

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Lovie Harris The video I selected was Persistence in Problem Solving This video related to micro-credential with ways to allow students to explain how they came up with an answer to a math problem.

They had to show three ways and by showing three ways they could see if all three ways allowed them to get the same answer which would boost their confidence in problem solving or show if a mistake was made.

Over the years the courses evolved to the point where they focused less on heuristics per se and more on introducing students to fundamental ideas: the importance of mathematical reasoning and proof..., for example, and of sustained mathematical investigations (where my problems served as starting points for serious explorations, rather than tasks to be completed).

Schoenfeld also suggested that a good problem should be one which can be extended to lead to mathematical explorations and generalisations.

Yet intelligence is essentially the ability to solve problems: everyday problems, personal problems ... Modern definitions of intelligence (Gardner, 1985) talk about practical intelligence which enables 'the individual to resolve genuine problems or difficulties that he or she encounters' (p.60) and also encourages the individual to find or create problems 'thereby laying the groundwork for the acquisition of new knowledge' (p.85).

As was pointed out earlier, standard mathematics, with the emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge, does not necessarily cater for these needs.

Resnick (1987) described the discrepancies which exist between the algorithmic approaches taught in schools and the 'invented' strategies which most people use in the workforce in order to solve practical problems which do not always fit neatly into a taught algorithm.

As she says, most people have developed 'rules of thumb' for calculating, for example, quantities, discounts or the amount of change they should give, and these rarely involve standard algorithms.

It can thus also help people to transfer into new work environments at this time when most are likely to be faced with several career changes during a working lifetime (NCTM, 1989). National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) (1989).

Resnick expressed the belief that 'school should focus its efforts on preparing people to be good adaptive learners, so that they can perform effectively when situations are unpredictable and task demands change' (p.18). Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, Reston, Virginia: NCTM.


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