I can honestly say that problem solving has never been my strong suit. And this blog post will be a little self reflection as well as how i plan to take some steps to improve, and possibly help future students that i may have to encounter the same challenges. I have always been the student to be sitting there (especially in math) and be given a problem and immediately i feel overwhelmed. I see the problem and if the routine or procedure of HOW EXACTLY to get the answer is not apparent, i'm lost. "What do i do?" "where do i start?" "how am i ever going to be able to do this on a test?" The only way that i ever felt like i was going to be able to figure out a problem was to collaborate and ask someone who knew what to do. I was never given time that was allowed and intended for you to just sit, think, and try. In school, education is so heavily focused on getting through as much material as possible in the shortest amount of time. Its all about "Here's how this is solved, practice this method in 50 homework problems tonight, there will be a quiz tomorrow, MOVING ON..." There was no time for a teacher to say "how do you think we solve this?" "what is one way we could solve this?" "Could there be another method?" That is what i believe that problem solving is. Being able to sit, think, stare at the problem. Try working the problem out, if it doesn't work, try another way.

So after watching Adam Savage, i was enlightened a little bit on my personal struggle of problem solving. Adam Savage's Steps to problem solving were explained as questions to be able to solve a problem and i found them incredibly healthy.

Problem solving is one of the actual skills that is learned that will help you in the real world. You may never need the Pythagorean theory or know how to write equations in slope intercept form, but you do need problem solving. I believe that some of these tips given by Adam Savage could REALLY help a struggling student or person in general to be a better problem solver.

So after watching Adam Savage, i was enlightened a little bit on my personal struggle of problem solving. Adam Savage's Steps to problem solving were explained as questions to be able to solve a problem and i found them incredibly healthy.

- What is the problem you are solving?

- For me this is a big one. Being able to identify WHAT i am solving. This was a big problem for me throughout school. In school it was just kind of like, solve this for points for my grade. Get the homework done, don't bother with what i am REALLY trying to solve. For my future students, i want to always start out a problem asking WHY do we need this. WHAT exactly is this that we are trying to solve and why is it important? - What is the big picture?

-This is a very important aspect. Speaking honestly, how many times have we heard the typical frustrated high school student use the phrase, "when will i ever need this in real life"... I am guilty of it. When students are doing math, they want to know that it really is going to help them in the real world down the road. It can be a motivation killer knowing that the math problem that you are struggling on so bad will have ABSOLUTELY no meaning or importance to you after the unit test and exam. - How much time do i have?

- I believe that it is important for a student to ask this question. I believe that it would come down to two different scenarios. 1. Am i actually going to be allowed time to*think*through this problem and work it out in my mind? or 2. am i going to be rushed through this problem and be left shafted and confused because we "have to move on? I think the answer to those questions will determine how well a student is going to perform and participate. - How am i doing now?

-Check back in on your students and have them check back in on themselves. How is what they are doing now tie in and relate to the big problem that they are trying to solve. This could serve as motivation to the student to continue through the struggle. - What is my rhythm?

- I would think that it would be incredibly useful to do some sort of activity with students in the beginning of the year to evaluate what type of problem solving rhythm that they use. Of course asking a self evaluation of kindergartners could be challenging, but for upper elementary, middle, and high school this could be an extremely effective activity. I would first show the students my steps of problems solving and then have them write theirs down. This would not only serve as a way to get to know your students in the start of the school year but it would also allow some self reflection. At the end of the year i would do the same exact thing. I would explain my ways of problems solving (adding in any changes) and ask them to do the same. I would explain that if they have the exact same method, and that works for them..That is wonderful. I would also explain that if they changed their way of problem solving completely and that works for them, that's wonderful too. I believe that if i was allowed this opportunity in school at any point it would've brought to my attention that my problem solving skills were lacking and may have allowed me to improve.

Problem solving is one of the actual skills that is learned that will help you in the real world. You may never need the Pythagorean theory or know how to write equations in slope intercept form, but you do need problem solving. I believe that some of these tips given by Adam Savage could REALLY help a struggling student or person in general to be a better problem solver.