Math problems can be engaging and thought-provoking with the right instructional strategies

math-problemProblem solving is one of today’s top skills—students who apply problem-solving strategies in the classroom are building important talents for college and the workforce. The math classroom is one of the best places to help students build these skills.

Creating a culture of problem solving in a math classroom or in a school involves prompting students and educators to think a little differently and systemically.

“The world does not need more people who are good at math,” said Gerald Aungst, supervisor of gifted and elementary mathematics in Pennsylvania’s Cheltenhamn Township Schools. “What the world needs are more problem solvers and more innovators.”

“We want people who are innovators, and don’t assume that what people tell them is impossible is impossible,” Aungst said during an edWeb leadership webinar.

One of the most important mindsets comes in realizing that, even in math, the context of a statement makes all the difference. Students should understand more than just the mechanics of math, Aungst said—they should investigate the context, the meaning, and how math problems and concepts work in a particular situation.

The five steps to building a problem-solving culture aren’t quick fixes or easy tips, Aungst said, but can be impactful when applied with the bigger picture of the classroom environment in mind.

(Next page: Five steps to creating a culture of problem solving)