Problem Solving Ability In Mathematics

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Through a problem-solving approach, this aspect of mathematics can be developed.

Presenting a problem and developing the skills needed to solve that problem is more motivational than teaching the skills without a context.

According to Resnick (1987) a problem-solving approach contributes to the practical use of mathematics by helping people to develop the facility to be adaptable when, for instance, technology breaks down. (Eds.) Professional Development for Teachers of Mathematics , pp. An Agenda for Action: Recommendations for School Mathematics of the 1980s, Reston, Virginia: NCTM.

It can thus also help people to transfer into new work environments at this time when most are likely to be faced with several career changes during a working lifetime (NCTM, 1989). National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) (1989).

However, although it is this engagement which initially motivates the solver to pursue a problem, it is still necessary for certain techniques to be available for the involvement to continue successfully. Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Teaching of Mathematics in Schools, London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

Hence more needs to be understood about what these techniques are and how they can best be made available. As the emphasis has shifted from teaching problem solving to teaching via problem solving (Lester, Masingila, Mau, Lambdin, dos Santon and Raymond, 1994), many writers have attempted to clarify what is meant by a problem-solving approach to teaching mathematics. The focus is on teaching mathematical topics through problem-solving contexts and enquiry-oriented environments which are characterised by the teacher 'helping students construct a deep understanding of mathematical ideas and processes by engaging them in doing mathematics: creating, conjecturing, exploring, testing, and verifying' (Lester et al., 1994, p.154). A further reason why a problem-solving approach is valuable is as an aesthetic form. Problem solving allows the student to experience a range of emotions associated with various stages in the solution process. 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. 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. Problem solving is, however, more than a vehicle for teaching and reinforcing mathematical knowledge and helping to meet everyday challenges. It is also a skill which can enhance logical reasoning.


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