A Tale of Two Classrooms -- Solve Problems

This is the seventh in a ten-part series based on the poster: A Tale of Two Classrooms.


Solve Problems

       School used to be:

  • Read the book
  • Memorize the facts
  • Recite what you've memorized
over and over and over again.  

       What are the capitals of the states in the United States?
       What year did World War 1 begin?
       What is the formula for finding the area of a triangle?

       Today's learners need so much more than mere memorization skills.  They need to know how to use these facts to make predictions, to see connections, and to find solutions.  The classrooms we need today require students to think and reason and discuss and hypothesize.  We need students who can be presented with a problem and know the tools they need to address the issues involved in the problem; and to find a way to solve the problem.

       Problem solving prepares students for the real world they will encounter beyond high school; be it college or career or relationships or buying a car or choosing a route to a destination.  We need problem solvers.  And the classroom is the ideal place to practice problem solving skills.  It isn't enough to have students who are only good at memorizing procedures or memorizes mere facts.  Anyone can find facts with the click of a mouse today.  Schools have to push students to do more.

       As with any other skill, problem solving takes practice.  Students need to hear from other students in addition to hearing from a teacher.  They need to be presented with problems that are (perhaps) a little bit beyond their reach, yet close enough to their abilities so that they can have ideas on where to begin.  Classroom need to have an atmosphere that respects effort and ideas so that students are free to offer their suggestions.  And we need to understand that problem solving is a slow process.  The quickest answer isn't always the correct answer.  Taking time to think is important.

       We need more and better problem solvers.

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