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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Step-by-step: A POWerful Approach to Problem Solving

Students and I are digging into the SRSD math problem solving approach. It's a tedious, detail-oriented approach that requires lots of stamina. Children want to rush ahead. Teaching assistants wonder where we are going? Yet, we'll stay the course this week because I know that a targeted approach that looks deeply at each element of successful problem solving in math and other areas matters.

Yesterday we began by unpacking the P and O of POW. We studied P for "pull apart the problem" with the 3 P's: pictures (models), primary information (vocabulary), purpose (why has this problem been posed, what's important when I solve it). Next we began our focus on O for organizing the work with the acronym TIDE: Topic (what are we supposed to do), Important Details (what number/other information are we focusing on), and Evaluate/Explain (carefully calculate, figure out the solution, and explain your thinking).  As students complete the TIDE tasks, they focus on the statement "Do--What" which begs the questions what I am supposed to DO and WHAT are the  important details that help me complete that task.

Finally, today, we'll focus on the W of POW which is writing the answer with math language, precise details, and clear text and equations. Lots of hands-on practice using the gradual release of responsibility and plenty of positive self talk and coaching is required to master this POWerful approach to problem solving.  The fact that this approach matches well to our use of SRSD in writing and reading is another reason why this is a POWerful way to teach math problem solving.

I told students that our world needs great problem solvers, and that Einstein and others have said that it's important to give problems a substantial dose of good process and careful analysis in order to reach accurate, helpful conclusions. Learning math is not about math alone, learning math is about learning successful thinking and problem solving strategies that serve one well throughout life in any subject or life area.