Why is teaching maths problem solving so important?

Teaching maths problem solving at On Target Tuition Lisburn

What is the point of maths? That is the question I was asked by my daughter as we were going over her times table facts . Why is maths problem solving so imporatant?

This is a question that I have heard many times throughout my teaching career. Times tables, algebra, fractions, percentages, decimals, trigonometry! The endless rote learning of multiplication facts, pages of equations and long multiplication has to have a use in the real world, doesn’t it?

The answer is that maths helps us solve problems in the real world. Maths is everywhere! The bills we pay, the money we use, the shopping choices we make, the measurements we take all need calculations and require us to use our maths brains.

Without the teaching of problem solving there is no point to maths! It is easy as an educator to focus on the rote learning of basic mathematical facts. Of course, it is vital that children learn their tables and know how to do quick mental calculations but it is equally important that children learn to use these facts and calculations to help them solve problems as this is ultimately why we teach maths in the first place. Without the ability to apply maths to problems, children will also struggle to achieve good grades at Transfer test and GCSE level.

Maths Problem solving is a skill that needs to be taught.

At On Target Tuition problem solving is an integral part of our maths tuition programmes. Here are our top tips for getting your child to tackle problems head on.

  1. Read the question once and try to visualise what is being asked. What sort of sum is needed to solve the problem? Will the answer be bigger (adding or multiplying) or smaller (subtracting or dividing) than what you are starting with? Are there groups or sets of things (multiply) or does the question involve sharing or splitting numbers or objects into groups (dividing)?
  2. Read the question again and get your highlighter pen out. Underline or highlight key words and numbers.
  3. If it helps draw a picture or diagram that helps you to visualise what the problem is asking.
  4. Decide if the question requires more than one step or calculation to come to a final answer.
  5. Finally, make sure you re-read the question once more when you have your answer. Think about if your answer is sensible! Go back to step one and think about what sort of sum you need and check any working out you have done.

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