Problem-solving skills are necessary for all strata of life, and none can be better than classroom problem-solving activities. It can be an excellent way to introduce students to problem-solving skills, get them prepped and ready to solve real problems in real-life settings.
The ability to critically analyze a problem, map out all its elements and then prepare a solution that works is one of the most valuable skills; one must acquire in life. Educating your students about problem-solving techniques from an early age can be facilitated with in-class problem-solving activities. Such efforts encourage cognitive and social development and equip students with the tools they will need to tackle and resolve their lives.
So, what is a problem-solving method of teaching?
Problem Solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution. In a problem-solving method, children learn by working on problems. This skill enables the students to learn new knowledge by facing the problems to be solved. It is expected of them to observe, understand, analyze, interpret, find solutions, and perform applications that lead to a holistic understanding of the concept. This method develops scientific process skills. This method helps in developing a brainstorming approach to learning concepts.
In simple words, problem-solving is an ongoing activity in which we take what we know to discover what we do not know. It involves overcoming obstacles by generating hypotheses, testing those predictions, and arriving at satisfactory solutions.
The problem-solving method involves three basic functions
- Seeking information
- Generating new knowledge
- Making decisions
This post will include key strategies to help you inculcate problem-solving skills in your students.
First and foremostly, follow the 5-step model of problem-solving presented by Wood
Woods' problem-solving model
Identify the problem
Allow your students to identify the system under study by interpreting the information provided in the problem statement. Then, prepare a list of what is known about the problem, and identify the knowledge needed to understand (and eventually) solve it. Once you have a list of known problems, identifying the unknown(s) becomes simpler. The unknown one is usually the answer to the problem; however, there may be other unknowns. Make sure that your students have a clear understanding of what they are expected to find.
While teaching problem solving, it is very important to have students know how to select, interpret, and use units and symbols. Emphasize the use of units and symbols whenever appropriate. Develop a habit of using appropriate units and symbols yourself at all times. Teach your students to look for the words only and neglect or assume to help identify the constraints.
Furthermore, help students consider from the beginning what a logical type of answer would be. What characteristics will it possess?
Think about it
Use the next stage to ponder the identified problem. Ideally, students will develop an imaginary image of the problem at hand during this stage. They need to determine the required background knowledge from illustrations, examples and problems covered in the course and collect pertinent information such as conversion factors, constants, and tables needed to solve the problem.
Plan a solution
Often, the type of problem will determine the type of solution. Some common problem-solving strategies are: compute; simplify; use an equation; make a model, diagram, table, or chart; or work backwards.
Help your students choose the best strategy by reminding them again what they must find or calculate.
Carry out the plan
Now that the major part of problem-solving has been done start executing the solution. There are possibilities that a plan may not work immediately, do not let students get discouraged. Encourage them to try a different strategy and keep trying.
Encourage students to reflect. Once a solution has been reached, students should ask themselves the following questions:
- Does the answer make sense?
- Does it fit with the criteria established in step 1?
- Did I answer the question(s)?
- What did I learn by doing this?
- Could I have done the problem another way?
Other tips include
Ask Open-Ended Questions
When a student seeks help, you might be willing to give them the answer they are looking for so you can both move on. But what is recommend is that instead of giving answers promptly, try using open-ended questions and prompts. For example: ask What do you think will happen if..? Why do you think so? What would you do if you get into such situations? Etc.
Emphasize Process Over Product
For elementary students, reflecting on the process of solving a problem helps them develop a growth mindset. Getting an 'incorrect' response does not have to be a bad thing! What matters most is what they have done to achieve it and how they might change their approach next time. As a teacher, you can help students learn the process of reflection.
Model The Strategies
As children learn creative problem-solving techniques, there will probably be times when they will be frustrated or uncertain. Here are just a few simple ways to model what creative problem-solving looks like and sounds like.
- Ask questions in case you don't understand anything.
- Admit to not knowing the right answer.
- Discuss the many possible outcomes of different situations.
- Verbalize what you feel when you come across a problem.
- Practising these strategies with your students will help create an environment where struggle, failure and growth are celebrated!
Grappling is not confined to perseverance! This includes critical thinking, asking questions, observing evidence, asking more questions, formulating hypotheses and building a deep understanding of a problem.
There are numerous ways to provide opportunities for students to struggle. All that includes the engineering design process is right! Examples include:
- Engineering or creative projects
- Design-thinking challenges
- Informatics projects
- Science experiments
Make problem resolution relevant to the lives of your students
Limiting problem solving to class is a bad idea. This will affect students later in life because problem-solving is an essential part of human life, and we have had a chance to look at it from a mathematical perspective. Such problems are relevant to us, and they are not things that we are supposed to remember or learn but to put into practice in real life. These are things from which we can take very significant life lessons and apply them later in life.
What's your strategy? How do you teach Problem-Solving to your students? Do let us know in the comments.