In his excellent TED talk, “Math Class Needs a Makeover,” Dan Meyer emphasizes the need for more patient problem solving. He explains that since real world problems don’t come neatly packaged with all the necessary information provided (as they often do in a textbook), students should learn to think through and build problem solving steps on their own. In his own classroom, Mr. Meyer rebuilds problems from his textbook, removing provided sub-steps and information from the initial presentation of the problem, in order to challenge students to figure out how to answer the question at hand. In this way students determine what information matters, rather than being provided that information upfront by the question itself.
Knowre begins each lesson with a comic featuring what the student will learn in that lesson. It offers a great platform for developing and practicing patient problem solving skills. Let’s use the comic below as an example. By simply blocking out frames 2, 3, and 4 teachers can present a real world scenario to students and facilitate a discussion about how one would go about solving the question posed in frame 5.
During the course of the conversation, students will need to identify exactly what information they need in order to solve the problem. Once this has been accomplished, teachers can reveal the missing frames and move the conversation to focus on how the needed information can be used to address the question. Alternatively, students can map out their solving process first, and then plug in the missing information once it has been revealed. In either approach, students are required to wrestle with and think critically about the solving process, rather than just about using the provided information to answer a question.
How do you cultivate problem-solving skills in your classroom? Send us your ideas via Twitter at @Knowre.