Problem Solving in Math – Why Our Kids Don’t Like It

Many people are afraid of math problems. Why is that? Maybe it’s because they remember that they had previous trouble with math problems. Or they think that they can’t understand math problems because math problems are “too hard”, “I can’t do this” Or they don’t know how to unravel the problem to find out what the real question is. If I don’t solve the problem in 2 minutes they think they will never will get it. Or they simply don’t know where to start.These are typical thoughts of what teachers think students have about problem solving. I do tend to agree with many of them to an extent but I think there is a bigger problem here. I believe that we have made our students believe this, it’s our fault!Possible causes for these conceptions:
Problem solving shouldn’t be measured on TESTS
Time limits (ask any professor at your at your local University how long s/he works on a problem for, probably the reply will be months to years, not seconds to minutes)
Teachers think they know all the answers  
Teachers are bad models, they always give a perfect answer
What Is Problem Solving?Problem solving is a process (not the answer) which occurs when a set of conditions are given and a goal is given, but the means to achieve the goal must be developed by the solver.
Given the choice – what do you want to do… Let the solver brings something to a task
I believe that there should be more failure before there is success (months of it)
We should leave the traditional problems behind and move onto more creative/process type problems in math
The Traditional Problem: The conditions –> a few strategies –> Goal Example: “Several sugar cubes are stacked two high, four wide, and four deep. How many sugar cubes are used in all?”  The Creative Problem: The conditions –> a few strategies for each –> Multiple Goals Example: “Create as many different rectangular prism solids as you can using 32 sugar cubes.”  The Process Problem: Much like the creative problem, except emphasis is placed on the process of solving while little is placed on the goal or solution. Justify your answer, creativity is emphasized! Example: “32 sugar cubes were stacked to create a shape that looks like this on one end (3×2 squares). How is this possible?”  

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