Creating Confident Problem Solvers

At one time or another, every person has felt 'stuck' when working on a problem. While students have the luxury of asking a knowledgeable adult to lead them in the right direction, in most work situations, the ability to successfully navigate these issues without help is a prized skill. Because students will one day be self-sufficient adults who wish to contribute value to an employer, it is very important for teachers to create a classroom environment where students are encouraged to become confident problem solvers. Rachel Schaus, an enthusiastic educator, has written a helpful article for teachers who desire to help, but don't know where to start. Rather than reverting to the old standbys "read it again" or "use your head", Schaus advocates equipping students a proven process for analyzing any problem.

  1. Understand the Problem: Teach your students how to collect relevant data by explaining the problem in their own words, listing relevant facts, etc.
  2. Choose an Appropriate Strategy: Not all problems, or students for that matter, benefit from using the same solution inducing strategies. Schaus invites students to consider acting it out, choosing an operation, drawing a picture, employing guess and check, looking for a pattern, making a chart or table, making an organized list, using logical reasoning, and working backwards.
  3. Solve the Problem
  4. Analyze Results: This can be a crucial step. Many times, students are so focused on 'getting an answer' that they forget to ask themselves if the answer makes sense.

Providing students with a 'template' for problem solving while also fostering an environment of patience, will go a long way in creating confident problem solvers!