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Require More than One Strategy for Solving


Mathematics ^21st Century Skills Middle/High School 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

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Students will identify and consider more than one approach to solving a problem before choosing one to use.
  2. Instruction and Practice: a) 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 can more quickly solve alike problems. b) Model and Practice. On a daily basis, work through identifying 2-3 problem solving approaches for each problem with students. Add space on homework assignments for two different solving approaches, not for every problem, but for one or two.

*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 approaches 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 approaches.
  4. After solving, ask yourself, "Does this make sense?" If it does, go back and check your work with one of the other approaches. 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 approaches. 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.