Why Problem Solving?
Problem solving is the cornerstone of doing mathematics. A problem that you can’t solve in less than a day is usually a problem that is similar to one that you have solved before.
But in real life, a problem is a situation that confronts you and you don’t have an idea of where to even start.
If we want our students to be problem solvers and mathematically powerful, we must model perseverance and challenge students with non-routine problems.
Administrators, teachers and parents should facilitate and support students in the process of attacking and reasoning about the problems.
The solution is not as important as the process of problem solving. Struggling to get started is a natural part of learning to problem-solve.
The educator or parent should not be impatient with the student’s struggle. In fact, encouraging and supporting the struggle with some frustration is exactly what the student needs. A good problem-solver tries, fails, reevaluates, and tries again.
Role of the Principal
The principal should embrace the concept of problem solving and model problem-solving leadership, being a facilitator of non-routine problems. Begin by facilitating a session with teachers in which they explore the Problem of the Month prior to presenting the problem to the students.
Once the problem is presented to the students, the principal should be visible in facilitating the tasks alongside the teachers. Visiting and/or leading a class as students share ideas and approaches with the other students encourages and empowers both teachers and students. The principal can also play a role in examining the student products with their teachers.