Teaching Problem Solving

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As a teacher, it is helpful to observe those moments when children have problems and help them think about ways to solve their own problems.

Anticipate problems before they escalate and help children identify possible solutions.

Of all the skills students learn in school, problem solving arguably is the most valuable and the hardest to learn.

Problem solving is fraught with uncertainty -- what if the student looks stupid as he tries?

Whether they're writing, reading, or creating an art project, I want them thinking about what they're doing and why.

The Common Core State Standards put problem solving front and center.Imagine that a teacher requires some advice from you as a mental health consultant.The teacher bought a toy that all the children like to play with.The question becomes: How do students learn to use the steps? All it requires is that as they play and think about what they're doing: This is how students become the problem solvers required of their future.Certainly, as they accomplish their grade-level math curriculum, you as teacher remind them they aren't doing a multiplication problem (or an algebra one); rather they're reasoning abstractly or using appropriate tools strategically, or expressing regularity in repeated reasoning. You'll be surprised how much you know on a variety of topics. Future employers and schools want you to think, to use your intelligence and your knowledge to evaluate and solve problems. What advice do knowledgeable friends have (perspective taking, collaboration)? Your friends will think whatever they own is the best, because they're vested in that choice, but listen to their evidence and the conclusions they draw based on that. When they solve a problem that affects the direction their life takes (college, career, marriage, children, a tattoo), they'll be happy to have strategies that make it easier.How about deciding what classes to take in Middle School? Just make sure you are aware of how you made the choice and are satisfied with it. What are the risks involved in making the decision (reflection)? Make a decision (transfer learning) and live with it knowing you've considered all available information and evaluated it logically and objectively.Or whether to make a soccer or basketball game on the weekend? Using these eight tools strategically, with precision and tenaciously, is a great first step. Maybe buying an MP3 player means you can't do something else you wanted. Optionally, you might have students evaluate problem solving in their favorite game, say, Minecraft.This article will help you teach your students how to understand, identify, and resolve issues that they are facing in class.Problem-solving is a process—an ongoing activity in which we take what we know to discover what we don't know.In fact, students cannot fully meet the math standards without understanding how to effectively approach the unknown. Evaluate your resources (integration of knowledge). You might have to save money or get a job so you can afford the one you've chosen.Consider the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice that overlay all grade levels K-12: Don't these sound like great strategies for everything, not just math? Or, you might decide to settle for a cheaper version.


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