Defining Problem Solving
 Introduction | Posing Problems in a Variety of Contexts | Mathematical Stories | Assessing Student Thinking | Teacher's Role | Your Journal
 Developing problems that are connected to classroom events or settings from the students' lives embeds mathematics in situations that have relevance for students. By solving such problems, students apply mathematical concepts in meaningful ways. For example, before students began working on How Many Vehicles? problem, they spent several days observing how people came to school. They had some experience with the types of vehicles that would be in the parking lot, and they knew something about the vehicles. Who came to school in cars? Who came on buses? Who rode bikes? How many wheels were on each type of vehicle? The vehicles in the parking lot were becoming a story that was based in the students' experiences! So when the teacher presented the problem to them, the mathematics flowed from the situation. This may be a powerful way to help some children develop mathematical understanding. Introducing or extending an idea through the use of a mathematical story gives children a chance to explore the mathematics in a way that is significant and naturally encourages them to make sense of what they are doing. As children explore new concepts, they should also pose their own problems and questions. For example, recall from the Amazing Equations video in Session 2 that children wrote their own problems to reinforce their understanding of addition and subtraction. Children's Literature Children's literature offers rich problem-solving contexts for students. Problems that emerge from favorite books make the mathematics relevant for young children, are highly motivational, and provide meaningful contexts for establishing mathematical thinking. Students can do a skit of a story, followed by its mathematics-related problems. Problem-solving strategies, such as acting it out, drawing a picture, and making a model using manipulative materials, emerge naturally from this kind of activity. There are many excellent books available with ideas for connecting children's literature to mathematics instruction. A trip to the library and some creativity will unwrap a plethora of resources for you to use in your classroom.
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