Thursday, July 10, 2014

How DO We Problem Solve?

Mathematical Practice #1 might be the most daunting of all the Mathematical Practices!  How can we possibly teach students to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them?  Problem solving has always been one of those skills that we know good mathematicians acquire along the way.  Are students born with these skills or can we support our young people in cultivating them?  This week we will talk about the various ways to help scaffold the art of problem solving. 
Our first resource is a quick two minute video from the Teaching Channel. In this video, instructional math coach, Audra McPhillips, shows the audience how powerful hint cards can be as a scaffolding tool.  Take a look at the video, Hint Cards.
Our second resource is an article from the Association for Middle Level Education website.  The article highlights the benefits of using a graphic organizer in the math classroom and includes samples of student work as evidence.  Students Use Graphic Organizers to Improve Mathematical Problem-Solving Communications is worth the read.
Finally, the graphic above is an example that helps students scaffold their own thinking when exploring longer denser tasks.  The DEEP acronym is a rather easy acronym to remember and acts as a self-created graphic organizer that gives students many different ways to first approach a task.  Students can start by redefining the question in their own words, by sketching a picture, by highlighting key details and evidence, or by writing out the steps using prose.  The more students practice using these tools, the less they will need the tools in the future!

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