Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Right Strategy for the Right Problem

For some time now an expectation for my students has been to solve problems in a variety of ways. Many based on outcomes from we have set. I have constantly been asking them, "How could you solve that another way? 

Recently, I have been thinking "Why?" Why do they need to solve a problem in 2 or 3 different ways. In real life situations we don't solve a problem and then think of another way to solve it. I understand that being able to have different strategies teaches students to look at things in different ways. But wouldn't be better if the could analyse a problem and then reach into their tool box of strategies to find the right tool for the right problem!

So I have started asking my students, "What strategy would be helpful in solving this problem?" Not all problems lend themselves to certain strategies. Sometimes place value lends itself well, but other times making tens can be more efficient.

This made me think that rather than teaching or guiding my students to a specific strategy I should be getting them to think critically about a problem and then ask them what strategies would be most helpful and why?

Getting students to analyse a problem and then think about the strategy that they will use also provides great evidence of their understanding. 

What I was finding was that my students were simply taking a problem and trying to apply any strategy that we had shared without really thinking first about what strategy would be most useful. 

I have now changed how we approach problems. I have start to allow more time for students to think about the problem and the strategy that might make the problem easier and more efficient for them to solve.

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