Problem Solving with Pam

Our thanks to Pamela Barritt of Woodcroft Primary School for sharing this Blog post with us!  It was originally posted on March 14, 2017 (archived)

During maths lessons we focus on four different parts of learning: Problem Solving, Fluency, Reasoning and Understanding. Each are equally important.

At the beginning of every week we work on problem solving tasks. These are tasks that are new to children and which they have not come across before. By being unfamiliar, children have to develop their own strategies, test ideas and often change their thinking several times before being sure of a correct answer.

Problems don’t have to be complicated, just new.

Today, as part of Addition and Subtraction learning, I put up the questions below:

Question 1 was quite straight forward even though most children had not seen it written this way before.

Question 2 created a lot of confusion and discussion. (This is good!)

“It is impossible to add something to 9 and get 6”, was a common reaction. Most of the class are still working on this question. For quite some time they will get no help or hints from me. They need to stretch their brains. The more problem solving the children do, the better they are getting at persisting with a problem, being prepared to change their mind and not waiting for help. They need to do the thinking, not the teacher doing it for them.

Children need to be able to explain how and why they got a particular answer and are asked the same questions whether they are correct or incorrect. “Why did you choose that number… how does this work… how did you get this answer from that strategy…” “I just did it in my head”, is not an acceptable answer.

Had I just given the addition problem, 19 +27, many children in the class would have worked it out following some well known methods. This is not problem solving but Fluency and it would not have shown me the difficulties that they are having when the same type of problem is given a twist.

I will keep you updated on how we progress with these problems!


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