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OCTOSPICE 1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them

Starting from early years, such as Pre-K and Kindergarten, students should be introduced to the idea that mathematics involves problem-solving and discussing solutions.
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In the realm of mathematics education, teachers play a crucial role in nurturing students’ ability to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. By employing various strategies and approaches, educators can guide students towards becoming proficient problem solvers.

Starting from early years, such as Pre-K and Kindergarten, students should be introduced to the idea that mathematics involves problem-solving and discussing solutions. With guidance, they learn to explain the problem’s meaning and explore various ways to solve it. They use concrete objects or pictures to visualize problems and assess their thinking by questioning whether their solutions make sense. This foundational stage sets the groundwork for developing problem-solving skills in mathematics.

Early childhood teachers, for instance, often encourage collaborative learning by having students work in pairs to evaluate their problem-solving approaches. Through this process, students are prompted to articulate their methods and reflect on potential improvements for future problem-solving endeavors.

As students advance through elementary grades, they deepen their understanding that mathematics involves solving problems and discussing solutions. They continue to interpret problems, seek solutions, and evaluate their approaches. They become more open to trying different strategies, making conjectures, and planning problem-solving approaches. They also start to consider alternative methods to check their answers, further strengthening their problem-solving abilities.

Moving forward, students tackle more complex problems involving ratios, rates, algebraic concepts, and geometry. They engage in discussions about their problem-solving strategies and apply mathematical concepts to real-world situations. They refine their ability to understand problems, seek efficient solutions, and evaluate their approaches. Critical thinking becomes increasingly emphasized as they analyze information, explore special cases, and simplify problems to gain insights into solutions.

ALSO READ: The Problem of Solving Problems in Maths Classes

Teachers may present students with a range of methods to solving a problem and challenge them to decipher the underlying thought processes behind each method. This exercise not only enhances critical thinking skills but also fosters a deeper understanding of different problem-solving strategies.

On another level, students approach problem-solving with a deeper understanding and more advanced techniques. They analyze problems thoroughly, make conjectures, and plan pathways for solutions. They consider various methods, including transforming algebraic expressions and using graphing calculators, to obtain necessary information. They can explain connections between different representations of problems and check their answers using multiple methods. Emphasis is placed on critical thinking, adaptability, and a profound understanding of mathematical concepts.

Teachers focus on helping them develop a structured approach to problem-solving. By guiding students to outline the problem terrain and explore various starting points for solutions, educators empower them to navigate complex mathematical challenges with confidence and clarity.

Advancing, teachers introduce real-world design conundrums that require a tinkering process to arrive at mathematical proofs. This hands-on approach encourages students to experiment, iterate, and adapt their strategies as they strive towards finding innovative solutions to practical problems.

By incorporating these tailored teaching methodologies, educators can effectively cultivate students’ problem-solving skills at different stages of their academic journey. Through clear framing of mathematical challenges, regular check-ins to clarify thinking processes, and engaging activities that promote reflection and experimentation, teachers can inspire a generation of confident and resilient problem solvers in the field of mathematics.

Overall, the progression of problem-solving skills in mathematics involves a continuous development from understanding basic concepts to applying advanced techniques, while maintaining a critical and adaptable approach to problem-solving.

Throughout the journey of learning mathematics, students progress in their ability to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Process to make sense of problems

    • Read the problem to yourself.
    • Identify and clarify each word that tells you what to do mathematically.
    • Explain the problem in your own words.
    • Explain how you will know you have solved the problem correctly.

Process to persevere in solving them

    • Make a plan for solving the problem.
    • Begin to solve the problem.
    • Each time you get stuck, identify where you got stuck.
    • Ask for help, as needed.
    • Keep working until you’ve solved the problem correctly.



In OCTOSPICE 2 article tomorrow, I’ll talk about how to reason abstractly and quantitatively.  You don’t want to miss it.

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