Q&A #674

Teaching children a process for solving math problems

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From: Claudia (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Oct 19, 1998 at 20:11:22
Subject: Re: Teaching children a process for solving math problems

I, too, had the good nuns. They used to say "Order was heaven's first law!" I still feel that a child needs order and organization in mathematics to enable logical thought! I do not go overboard with the organization, but even according to Polya (Famous problem solver), a plan must exist! I even use two columns where students write down what they know in one and what they want to know (or don't know) in the other. Although mathematics teaching has gotten away from everyone doing, my way or else, logic requires a series of steps. The current teaching is supposed to focus on the process as well as the answer. Without steps, I wonder where the process comes from. Actually, I have heard about more instances where teachers wanted a million steps, rather than accepting a simplification. I have done several workshops recently especially at the middle school level where students receive a score for problem solving. The big thing to emphasize was to provide the students with some kind of a plan to follow. This does not mean that students are given a very prescriptive recipe. The basic ideas are ideas such as sketch a picture, list what you know, and what method of problem solving will apply? I know this does not help your son but process should still be in! -Claudia, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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