Many students can master various skills and concepts in other subjects but struggle with problem-solving in Math. This is a common complaint among students since Math is a very abstract subject, and they usually learn something if they can relate it to real life. So, when they encounter more advanced and challenging topics in math, they find themselves needing to work harder to understand these difficult concepts fully.
Also, unlike other subjects, there is no room for error in math and students quickly become frustrated when they find themselves confused with the current problem they are solving. They feel that they will get an error, or they will not be able to find the right solution to the problem, and this can be a stressful experience for them.
Math is also a cumulative subject, which means your child needs to know the basics first before they can move to new and advanced topics. If they fall behind in one area or concept, they will find it hard to understand and solve more advanced math problems.
The importance of teaching in context and giving practical examples
For most students, problem-solving can be difficult and sometimes tedious. That is why a math teacher must encourage students to be patient and persistent. They must also provide them with a more structured method that they can easily follow. Teachers must be able to articulate their problem-solving methods to their students, so they can see the connections and adequately apply them on their own problems.
Teachers must also be able to show their students how to use these problem-solving skills in real-life situations (e.g., using mole fraction in their other subjects like chemistry). They also need to help their students understand the problem and define their goal. Once they can answer the questions “what” and “why,” it will be much easier to find the answer to “how.”
Overloaded Curriculum and Time Constraints
As the demands of school and life increase, learning math becomes more jam-packed, and students become overwhelmed by the pace and content of many lessons. They often feel they are not given the support and time they need to complete and understand specific topics, especially develop problem-solving techniques.
Although teachers try their best to explain the concepts and run certain activities at school, time constraints will often force them to move on before the whole class is ready.
How to teach problem-solving skills in mathematics
Here is a step by step method students can use to help them break down, understand and tackle problem solving questions.
1. Underline or highlight key pieces of information.
2. Translate the information from part one into easier to understand language or equations.
3. Create a labelled diagram of the given scenario to get a visual understanding of the problem.
4. Form a plan outlining each step involved in your calulations to finally complete the problem
5. Action your plan, one part at a time.
6. Once you have your final answer, check that it is reasonable and logical. Add units or complete final calculations as required to fully answer the question.
In a one-on-one tutoring session, tutors often let their student work their problem out loud. This helps them develop their problem-solving skills since they articulate how they arrive at a solution. This will eventually slow down the thinking process – giving them a better overall picture of how it is done, and the steps they need to take to solve the problem.
The tutor can also introduce the two-column method wherein the student will write their solution to a problem along with their calculations in one column, and their reasoning on the other column. This will help the tutor identify where they may be having problems.
Overall, parents must support their children by providing all the necessary means like hiring an in-person or online tutor which can help improve their problem-solving skills in math. There are several qualified tutors in Melbourne like Maths Tutor Melbourne who can cater to any of their learning needs.