Ultimately any content that we teach our students, the required material/content that is covered, can and likely will be forgotten, at least to some degree by them at some point at a future date. We obviously need to cover this material, but the best part of the curriculum, and result of any education is developing the student’s ability to solve problems, think for him/her self and to simply gain the ability to be able to be a self-directed learner. During the past decade we have seen a huge push from inculcation to problem solving pedagogy. Most of us, if not all of us who completed our elementary and secondary education over ten years ago know how we sat in our chairs, were told how to do something, and were expected to reproduce, step by step what we saw. Granted this did work for some of us, but if it wasn’t us who struggled, we had some close friends who struggled, and despite the fact that they were absolutely brilliant it was not their learning style and they, or we struggled immensely as a result of this style of teaching.
During the past two years, we have seen an even greater exodus from the old methods, to promotion of creative thinking skills and problem solving strategies. What better place for this kind of skill development than in the confines of our mathematics classrooms? Carefully crafted questions can force our students to be able to push themselves beyond the days of “here is how you do it,” to “these are some things that I can try until I figure it out.”
If we truly believe in student success, we know that success in life transcends success in the classroom; it is success in life for our students that we are ultimately shooting for. When they leave our classrooms, they are heading into the world equipped with some content, yes, but the rapid changing world dictates that the content needed tomorrow, does not even exist today and that problem solving skills and the ability to learn will make all the difference. So, let’s multiply our efforts in assisting our students in becoming strong problem solvers and creative thinkers.