## How Can Problem Solving Competence Be Nurtured?

###
Wayne Pusch

Integrate problem solving into mathematics instruction from the beginning
of the year. Problem solving is an important bridge between informal
concepts and processes and more formal symbolic mathematics.

1. Introduce concepts and practice computation through the extensive use of
quality word problems.

Word problems make mathematics meaningful.

i.e. Cynthia is buying supplies for her birthday party that ten friends are
attending. She needs two balloons for each person. Six balloons are in each
package.

**Extension:**

What other supplies may she need?
Students could act out, draw pictures or use manipulatives to gain
understanding and plan procedures. They may use repeated addition, repeated
equal subtraction, skip counting, multiplication, or division to solve.

It is suggested that out of 10 days of instruction, students should be
challenged with nine days of problem solving and one day to review or practice
computation, if necessary.

2. Make manipulatives readily available especially during initial stages until
understanding is achieved and connections are formulated.

3. Choose quality problems - students must see the relevance if transfer is
expected.

4. Use different instructional approaches

- whole class
- small groups

- pairs

- individual

- learning centres

- thematic

5. Coordinate with other subjects

- Problem solving is a general process. Many problem solving activities can
be integrated across subject areas giving students exposure to a wider variety
of problems and opportunity to apply their skills.

6. Observe for strengths and weakensses of students and prepare for those ready
to move on. Use extensions.

7. Provide calculators for students to use when computation becomes too
burdensome or difficult.

8. Pose questions to develop observing, listening and reading skills.

9. Provide for interaction among students.

10. Provide sufficient time to fully explore the problem.

11. Establish an open, supportive and secure classroom environment.

Progress through a problem involves moving forward and back across the various
steps as many times as necessary to reach a satisfactory solution. A major
function of the teacher is to assist students in moving forward and back.

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