The problem solving model
Over the years I have seen and almost tried it all but every time I got to problem solving it didn’t matter what new model I was trained on it wasn’t as effective as I thought that it should be. I spent a great deal of my time trying to convinced the students that they could not only remember the problem solving process presented but that they could eventually flow through it on their own. I realized that it was like pulling teeth with the students because I couldn’t get them to connect to or buy into the process. I was also battling previous required rote skills that meant nothing to many of them. I started to talk with the students about the processes that they have tried and the strategies they remembered to use. Many teachers use and swear by the examples below and I’m all for reaching every learning so by all means if they work then allow students the success in using them. I just could not get them to draw it, fill it in, remember it or use it successfully.
I knew that there had to be something else that I could do to best reach my students and bring a little joy back into the problem solving process. I watched the student frustrations, listened to misconceptions and looked through their attempted processes to assist me in thinking about a possible solution.
We then had a discussion about the down fall of always looking for “magical” words and then what I like to call mathing the problem to death with purposeless calculations. They were told that they should underline the entire question but many of them were underlining the entire problem (many times a paragraph worth). They also seemed to be trained to look for keywords that would magically lead them directly to the calculation(s) needed. After struggling with my students to make sense of the problem solving model I realized that more time was spent on struggling through the model then the actual problem solving. It just wasn’t productive and as a nerdy lover of math I was no longer personally having fun anymore so I knew that my students were most likely feeling the same way.
I decided to try another angle and it is easier for my 6th grade students (and I) to flow through. I set it up visually as a familiar four corner picture but I process through it as a flow chart. I made the concept a little more relative and engaging as opposed to the generic K-N-O-W explanation. After completing out financial literacy unit I really focused on problem solving as we worked through our entire year review (in our required four week timeline). I came up with a new angle and it seems to be working.
Visual representation to come soon!
I constantly remind my students that I personally like to work smarter not harder. I stress to my learners that work is necessary but over working to get the same result is not. I constantly say work smarter not harder and encourage my students to try a little bit of good ol’ common sense before they guess an answer or math a problem to death. 🙂