1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

How are second and third grade teachers helping their students make sense of problems? During a recent online course focused on problem solving in elementary classrooms, these thoughts were shared in our discussions. I’ve received permission to quote them and provide them here as starting points we all might use to have a conversation.

Barbara says,
I think that if we teach our students that there are multiple ways to solve a problem (our goal—flexible thinkers) then they will become more independent in their problem solving. If they have a bag full of tricks…lots of different ways to solve a problem they will be able to explain why one way works over another way for them (or for that problem). I also think that if they become comfortable with lots of different strategies they can dialouge with other students about the stratey each one chooses to use. While I think the Brainstorming Representations is a bit wordy for 2nd graders to use, I like the idea of having a paper to help students think about HOW they are going to solve the problem before they solve the problem. I also think that the idea of a group working together would encourage constructing viable arugments….after all to decide HOW to solve it the student would be talking about all of these strategies that they have learned….Maybe they will draw a picture, act it out, build a model, use blocks or a number line. We have introduced many of these strategies but we continue to focus SO much on getting the problem figured out and a lot less time on how we might solve the problem. I think that is where I struggle….giving students the time to think about HOW to solve problems.