Saturday, 03 December 2011 17:45

Math Problem Solving Menus (Part 4): List of Problem Solving Strategies (Teaching Tip #51)

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The Teaching Tips will focus on the topic of Math Problem Solving Menus during this six-week period.

Week 1: Math Problem Solving Menus: An Introduction
Week 2: Problem Solving Solution Sheet
Week 3: Sample Problem Solving Menu
Week 4: List of Problem Solving Strategies
Week 5: Scoring Rubric
Week 6: Checking System (The Supermarket Analogy)


 List of Problem Solving Strategies

When my students work with our Problem Solving Menus in class, the ultimate goal is for them to become independent, confident problem solvers who embrace challenges and display mental toughness - no matter how difficult these challenges become. A huge part of helping students reach this goal involves empowering them with a repertoire of strategies they can use as they encounter new problems.

The following list features the main strategies students are called upon to use as they proceed through the nine menus that comprise our class set:

• Choose Operations
• Count/Use Tallies
• Draw a Picture
• Use Real Objects
• Make a Chart/Process of Elimination
• Use Logical Reasoning
• Work Backwards
• Make an Organized List
• Find a Pattern
• Guess and Check

Of course, it is important for kids to develop proficiency with each of these strategies, but it is more important that they know when to use each one. In fact, I would say that the ability to read a question, identify a winning strategy, and then carry that strategy through from beginning to end is the hallmark of an effective problem solver.

Another important aspect of effective problem solving involves situations in which students become stuck. These empowering moments provide wonderful opportunities for growth, both behaviorally and cognitively.

Behaviorally, we can talk with our kids about how they act when they become stuck. Do they become frustrated? Do they become distracted? Are they tempted to quit? Or, does their resolve strengthen, and do they become more motivated, more focused, and more determined to succeed?

Cognitively, students need to decide whether they are stuck because they are having difficulty executing a given strategy or because their strategy is not viable and they need to choose a different one. This can be a very difficult determination to make, but these are critical learning opportunities that kids need to experience if they are to become independent, confident problem solvers.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.