Mathematics Problem Solving Strategies

The basic problem solving approach used in many mathematic classrooms is

Step 1: Understand the problem.
Step 2: Consider possible solution strategies and plan an approach.
Step 3: Carry out one strategy.
Step 4: Look back: Does the solution make sense?

However, most students who haven’t become proficient at solving word problems get stuck on the very first step, understanding. So a great deal of problem solving effort needs to go into understanding the problem. That's where these strategies come in. These strategies help students analyze what the problem is asking, visualize an approach to solving it, and apply what they have learned from other problems to solve new problems.

Students who struggle with reading mathematics problems also find strategies helpful. Sometimes their struggle is due to unfamiliar vocabulary; sometimes a lack of interest in reading informational text; sometimes the text structure is too difficult. These strategies can help students overcome those difficulties.

Problem solving strategies 6-14-10b.pdf Use this link to download a hard copy of the Problem Solving Toolkit.