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Problem solving is a critical component of learning mathematics in the early years. Young students who are engaged in meaningful problem solving develop basic skills, higher-order thinking skills, and a repertoire of problem-solving strategies.
Why Teach Problem Solving?
There are many benefits to teaching problem solving. These include:
It bases students’ mathematical development on their current knowledge;
It is an interesting and enjoyable way to learn mathematics;
It is a way to learn new mathematics with greater understanding;
It produces positive attitudes towards mathematics;
It makes the student a junior mathematician;
It teaches thinking, flexibility and creativity;
It encourages co-operative skills;
It is a useful way to practice mathematical skills learned by other means;
It is similar to the approach used in other curriculum activities.
Why Is It Important?
Patterns are often introduced to students without the context of a word problem as in the following example: “Find a pattern in this sequence, explain how it works, and use that pattern to predict the next four numbers. 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, __, __, __, __.”
Younger students often discover and continue using patterns that employ geometric shapes. For example, yellow circle, red square, green triangle, yellow circle, red square, green triangle, and so on.
Discovering patterns can help students learn multiplication facts when they notice that 4 x 7 is the same as 7 x 4, and that all numbers in the 10s column end with a zero.
The Find a Pattern strategy can be used to solve many math problems and can be used in combination with many other strategies, including make a table, make a list, or simplify the problem.