# Problem Solving Approach To Mathematics

With younger children it is worth repeating the problem and then asking them to put the question in their own words.Older children might use a highlighter pen to mark and emphasise the most useful parts of the problem.Pólya’s second stage of finding a strategy tends to suggest that it is a fairly simple matter to think of an appropriate strategy.

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But it is worth getting them into the habit of looking back over what they have done. First of all it is good practice for them to check their working and make sure that they have not made any errors.

Second, it is vital to make sure that the answer they obtained is in fact the answer to the problem and not to the problem that they thought was being asked.

This is the side of the subject that is largely represented in the Strands of Number, Algebra, Statistics, Geometry and Measurement.

On the other hand, the processes of mathematics are the ways of using the skills creatively in new situations. As such it is to be found in the Strand of Mathematical Processes along with Logic and Reasoning, and Communication.

When you think about it, the whole aim of education is to equip children to solve problems.

In the Mathematics Curriculum therefore, Problem Solving contributes to the generic skill of problem solving in the New Zealand Curriculum Framework.Third, in looking back and thinking a little more about the problem, children are often able to see another way of solving the problem.This new solution may be a nicer solution than the original and may give more insight into what is really going on.Naturally enough, Problem Solving is about solving problems.And we’ll restrict ourselves to thinking about mathematical problems here even though Problem Solving in school has a wider goal.It will almost always be necessary to read a problem several times, both at the start and during working on it.During the solution process, children may find that they have to look back at the original question from time to time to make sure that they are on the right track.Finally, the better students especially, may be able to generalise or extend the problem.Generalising a problem means creating a problem that has the original problem as a special case. The last part of that problem asks how many towers can be built for any particular height.This is useful to show others what they have done and it is also helpful in finding errors should the right answer not be found.At this point many children, especially mathematically able ones, will stop.

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