# Bringing Math Home: A Parent's Guide to Elementary School Math : Games + Activities + Projects

By Suzanne L. Churchman | Go to book overview

6

Problem Solving

Problem solving is an essential part of the human condition. As an adult, you begin solving problems as soon as the alarm goes off in the morning, and you finish when your day is done. True, most of these problems are small, but every grown-up faces, at some time, problems that require a variety of strategies to solve.

Small children are naturals at problem solving because everything in the world is new to them. They are full of curiosity and, often, perseverance. Have you ever watched a toddler try to reach an object on the far side of the table? At first, the youngster keeps reaching and reaching. He or she may try to climb in order to get closer. The child may move partway around the table and try again. Finally, he or she makes the connection to walk around the table to get on the same side as the object. Success—object reached! The problem was solved by trial and error, plus a lot of persistence—a quality to be nurtured as children mature.

While problem solving is found in all areas of our lives and at school in many subjects, the focus of this chapter is how problem solving relates to mathematics. For our purpose, problem solving gives kids a chance to use what they have learned in the Content areas of math and extend what they already know into new areas. If you look back at the majority of activities listed in the chapters on Content Standards, the math skills taught are set in a problem-solving context. Kids understand and remember when they [do,] instead of just memorizing.

Problem solving is the basis for mathematics in today's schools. If kids do not have the ability to solve problems, the math skills they learn are essentially useless. Children who can create a plan and implement it to solve a mathematical problem show a much greater understanding of math than kids who can simply add, subtract, multiply, and divide.

There are four main objectives for elementary students, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, under the Problem-Solving standard:

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Bringing Math Home: A Parent's Guide to Elementary School Math : Games + Activities + Projects

• Title Page i
• Acknowledgments iii
• Contents iv
• Introduction v
• How to Use This Book vii
• Content Standards 1
• 1: Numbers and Operations 3
• 2: Algebra 35
• 3: Geometry 57
• 4: Measurement 97
• 5: Data Analysis and Probability 129
• Process Standards 155
• 6: Problem Solving 157
• 7: Reasoning and Proof 173
• 8: Communication 181
• 9: Connections 189
• 10: Representation 195
• Summing It Up 201
• Appendix 203
• Glossary 223
• Bibliography 229
• Index 230
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