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Pause and Analyze before Answering


Mathematics ^21st Century Skills Social-Emotional Learning All Ages Strategy


Flexible Thinking Self-regulation Processing Speed

Pause and Analyze before Answering

If your student dives into complex problems without a strategy

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Students will recognize when they need to pause and fully consider a complex problem before diving in to solve it.
  2. Teacher Takeaways: Everyone reaches a point when solutions to problems are no longer obvious. Some students might jump in and begin problem solving even when they aren't sure what they need to do. Remind students of the importance of accuracy over speed. If the problem is unfamiliar or seems to have a unique twist, that is the time to step back and evaluate first.
  3. Model and Practice: Model for students how to approach an unfamiliar problem by first pausing and then taking your time to work in steps. (next slide)

*print* Student Checklist: Solving When You're Not Sure

  1. Hold your pencil to the side and force yourself to think for at least three seconds before writing anything.
  2. Identify similarities and differences to familiar problems: How is this like other problems? What is different? What part of the problem makes me pause and why? What am I certain of? Where am I uncertain?
  3. This might be a good time to draw a picture and use labels to map out the problem.
  4. Even if you can usually do calculations in your head, show your work. Not only might you receive partial credit, but you can more easily recognize what to do.
  5. Consider if it is worth skipping the problem and coming back to it when you have extra time or are less anxious about finishing.
  6. Once you have an answer pause and ask yourself, "Does this make sense?" Always self-check that your answer is logical before moving on.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Research on students solving unfamiliar problems, showed that most students make quick decisions on a problem solving approach and persist on that path, whether right or wrong. Taking time to simply pause, ask yourself some specific questions or use a picture, is shown to result in significantly better outcomes.