Importance Of Problem Solving In Math

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A current favorite student activity demonstrates a link between the undertone, pattern and composure of music and math.

My students can be seen walking around campus singing and dancing to the Uptown Factors’ parody of “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars.

There is great value in allowing them to explore and contrast many different ways to solve problems.”Star and colleague Bethany Rittle-Johnson of Vanderbilt University have conducted a number of studies over the past decade that demonstrate the benefits of comparing a variety of problem-solving approaches for learning math, especially algebra.

And their work has paid off: the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences echoed their findings in two recent publications by the What Works Clearinghouse: a new problem-solving guide for grades 4-8 and a new algebra practice guide for middle and high school students.

It goes without saying that we want students to be good problem solvers.

Everyone understands the importance of problem solving and equipping children to be able to problem solve.

Problem-solving is a process—an ongoing activity in which we take what we know to discover what we don't know.

It involves overcoming obstacles by generating hypo-theses, testing those predictions, and arriving at satisfactory solutions.

Building on this work, Star, Rittle-Johnson, and colleague Kristie Newton of Temple University developed a set of curriculum materials designed to be used in middle and high school algebra classrooms.

The goal is to expose students to multiple problem-solving strategies and to build deep and flexible mathematical knowledge.“In math class, you should have opportunities to talk about different approaches, and comparison helps us to think not only about what works in mathematics, but also about how and why things work,” says Star.


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