In 2017 we identified problem solving and mathematical literacy as a whole school priority focus. Problem solving addresses the ‘deep’ component of our Beeliar Instructional Model.
Teaching students how to be problem solvers has a variety of benefits. Problem solving:
- Allows students to practice their mathematical skills;
- Teaches collaborative skills;
- Teaches students to be flexible in their thinking;
- Skills can be applied across all learning areas;
- Allows children to transfer skills to their everyday life experiences;
- Is a fun way for students to deepen their mathematical understanding;
- Develops resilience;
- Provides opportunities for students to have fun with mathematics;
- Gives students an authentic purpose for learning mathematics.
Our students are taught new concepts and problem solving strategies (surface level learning) using Explicit Direct Instruction methods. Once the skills have been mastered, students are able to transfer and apply them to rich problem solving tasks where ‘deep learning’ occurs.
For students to be able to apply problem solving skills, they must first be taught the heuristics (strategies) of problem solving. Some of the common strategies we focus on are:
- Guess and check;
- Act it out/use equipment;
- Draw a diagram;
- Make an organised list;
- Look for patterns;
- Make a table;
- Working backwards.
Our students follow the ‘See, plan, do, check’ method to tackle problem solving tasks:
- See – read and understand the question
- Plan – decide on which problem solving strategy or strategies to use
- Do – carry out the problem
- Check – check your answer. If it isn’t reasonable, start the process again.
It is also essential for students to comprehend mathematical questions, hence our strong focus on teaching mathematical literacies as part of our daily numeracy block. Each classroom provides a language rich environment with the use of mathematics vocabulary walls and opportunities for mathematical discussion in every lesson.
Our teachers’ programs provide opportunities for problem solving during lessons, in addition to weekly problem solving sessions where students can apply a combination of their strategies.
As part of our action plan to address problem solving a whole school priority focus, our staff have received ongoing professional learning from mathematics consultant, Paul Woodley. Paul has also worked closely with our Year Level coaches to assist in the development of our whole school scope and sequences. Our vision is for students to become proficient problem solvers through participation in challenging, purposeful and engaging learning experiences.