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Require More than One Strategy for Solving


Mathematics ^21st Century Skills MS/HS/College Strategy


Flexible Thinking Self-regulation Abstract Reasoning

Require More than One Strategy for Solving

If your student can solve problems efficiently but you want to strengthen their complex problem solving skills

Instruction And Practice

  1. Objective: Students will identify and consider more than one approach to solving a problem before choosing one to use.
  2. Explain Why. Thinking of 2-3 possible ways to solve a new problem seems like it will take a long time, but can save you time in the end because you will have options to fall back on and will be able to choose the most efficient strategy for the problem.
  3. Model and Practice. On a daily basis, work through identifying 2-3 strategies for each problem with students. Discuss which strategy was the most efficient for each problem and why. Have students practice using several strategies on a few homework problems as needed.
  4. As students master several strategies, they become more flexible with their thinking and will be able to choose the most efficient strategy for each problem.

*print* Student Guide: Finding More Than One Strategy

  1. When you are not pressed for time and have an unfamiliar problem, jot down two or three strategies you can use to solve the problem.
  2. Pick one of the options and solve the problem.
  3. If you get stuck, try one of your alternative strategies.
  4. After solving, ask yourself, "Does this make sense?" If it does, go back and check your work with one of the other strategies. If you get the same answer, you can be confident you have the correct answer. Otherwise you will need to go back and check your work again.
  5. This approach will take more time at first, but you will become more efficient with identifying multiple strategies. Over the long term, being able to identify and try multiple ways will result in deeper understanding and better accuracy.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Research shows that students who consider a few problem solving approaches before they begin solving are more likely to adapt when they run into difficulty rather than persist with the wrong approach. This strategy can be particularly helpful for students with weaker flexible thinking who benefit from consistently reminding themselves to consider multiple approaches to problem solving tasks.