Approaches and methodologies

Problem solving

The child’s attempts to solve a problem require him/her to call on many skills. Problems in mathematics have often been seen as textbook examples at the end of a section on a particular topic. Problems in life are rarely that simple, and there is often more than one way to find a solution.

Problem-solving experiences should develop the ability to plan, take risks, learn from trial and error, check and evaluate solutions and think logically. Discussion and acceptance of the points of view of others are central to the development of problem-solving strategies.

Problems can be classified in many ways. They can be presented concretely, diagrammatically or in written form. They can be open or closed. They can relate to one particular content area or include elements from more than one strand.

A written problem may be difficult to solve because of readability or because it has multiple steps to the solution procedure. Large and awkward numbers often frighten a child away from attempting a problem, and if the information is not presented in the order in which it is to be used some children just give up without trying. If children are taught to analyse the problem carefully and extract the relevant information they can often find that it is much easier to solve than it appeared at first.