Why problem solve?
Learning theories suggest that children whose learning is firmly grounded in problem solving develop important skills for effectively functioning in everyday life. Not only that, with the rate at which change is occurring in our society, students are facing futures where problem solving, creative and critical thinking, coupled with the ability to work collaboratively, will be essential.
The Ferny Grove State School Problem Solving Program was implemented in 2014 to explicitly teach our students a wide variety of strategies for solving mathematical problems. Students learn to use a THINKBOARD to communicate their thinking and to justify their answers. Teachers guide the students through questioning, allowing the students the time and space to develop perseverance and to learn from their mistakes. The most exciting aspect of this program is the discoveries the students make while working through problems!
The problem solving process
Students are taught to read problems carefully, to highlight the important information and to box keywords. They learn to really think about the content of the problem, and how to apply what they know about mathematics and numbers to decide on a strategy/strategies to find the solution. The students are given explicit instruction in ways to show all their steps and are taught strategies on how to check their working. This process is research based (George Polya) and proven to assist all students. It is simple but very effective. It is SEE, PLAN, DO, CHECK.
Maths Slam and Jam
The Ferny Grove Problem Solving Program is complimented by another program called Maths Jam and Maths Slam. This program specifically targets the development of problem solving skills in our Year 4 and 5 students. Lessons are highly engaging and offer students creative ways to learn mathematics. Each lesson focuses on the deeper learning of a mathematical concept linked to the real-world of our students. All lessons are differentiated, targeting individual student’s learning needs, whether that be extension or consolidation and revision. The culminating activity for these programs is ‘The Amazing Maths Race’. Students, in groups of four, begin the race with a problem solving relay. In their teams they venture out of the hall using a map of the school and reading a Timetable to visit Maths Stations in mystery locations. Teams are mixed ability and points are scored not only for correct solutions but for teamwork and perseverance.
The Benefits of Problem Solving
- It is an interesting and enjoyable way to learn mathematics
- It is a way to learn new mathematics with greater understanding
- It produces positive attitudes towards mathematics
- It teaches thinking, flexibility and creativity
- It teaches general problem solving skills
- It encourages cooperation