Problem Solving Skills Math

For these reasons problem solving can be developed as a valuable skill in itself, a way of thinking (NCTM, 1989), rather than just as the means to an end of finding the correct answer.

Many writers have emphasised the importance of problem solving as a means of developing the logical thinking aspect of mathematics.

Such motivation gives problem solving special value as a vehicle for learning new concepts and skills or the reinforcement of skills already acquired (Stanic and Kilpatrick, 1989, NCTM, 1989).

Approaching mathematics through problem solving can create a context which simulates real life and therefore justifies the mathematics rather than treating it as an end in itself.

'If education fails to contribute to the development of the intelligence, it is obviously incomplete.

Yet intelligence is essentially the ability to solve problems: everyday problems, personal problems ... Modern definitions of intelligence (Gardner, 1985) talk about practical intelligence which enables 'the individual to resolve genuine problems or difficulties that he or she encounters' (p.60) and also encourages the individual to find or create problems 'thereby laying the groundwork for the acquisition of new knowledge' (p.85). Schoenfeld also suggested that a good problem should be one which can be extended to lead to mathematical explorations and generalisations. He described three characteristics of mathematical thinking: Problem solving is an important component of mathematics education because it is the single vehicle which seems to be able to achieve at school level all three of the values of mathematics listed at the outset of this article: functional, logical and aesthetic. More recently the Council endorsed this recommendation (NCTM, 1989) with the statement that problem solving should underly all aspects of mathematics teaching in order to give students experience of the power of mathematics in the world around them. They see problem solving as a vehicle for students to construct, evaluate and refine their own theories about mathematics and the theories of others. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) (1980). As she says, most people have developed 'rules of thumb' for calculating, for example, quantities, discounts or the amount of change they should give, and these rarely involve standard algorithms. Training in problem-solving techniques equips people more readily with the ability to adapt to such situations. Specific characteristics of a problem-solving approach include: My early problem-solving courses focused on problems amenable to solutions by Polya-type heuristics: draw a diagram, examine special cases or analogies, specialize, generalize, and so on. Over the years the courses evolved to the point where they focused less on heuristics per se and more on introducing students to fundamental ideas: the importance of mathematical reasoning and proof..., for example, and of sustained mathematical investigations (where my problems served as starting points for serious explorations, rather than tasks to be completed). Let us consider how problem solving is a useful medium for each of these. It has already been pointed out that mathematics is an essential discipline because of its practical role to the individual and society.

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