Why is it so important to learn problem-solving skills? Whether you’re a student, a parent, a businessperson, or the president of a country, you face problems every day that need solving. Maybe you’re trying to save your business, keep your job, or end the world financial crisis. Maybe you simply need to eat more healthily or find more time to spend with your family. Whether the issue is big or small, we all set goals for ourselves, face challenges, and strive to overcome them. Effective problem solving skills are therefore essential for both academic and social success.
Since problem solving is key to being able to do all other aspects of mathematics, we need to be sure that we provide plenty of opportunities for problem solving for our children, and not be too quick to do it for them when they can work it out for themselves. We need to allow our children to find ways to solve their problems. If a child is struggling with a problem, it is important that we guide him towards solving that problem. We don’t want to just leave him to struggle and struggle until he gives up. But we also don’t want to fix all his problems for him. Playing games or doing activities that involve problem solving can be a non-threatening way to develop these skills in your child.
One of the ways you can help your child if she is struggling with a puzzle or a problem solving activity is with the HAND OVER HAND technique. If the child is using a posting activity like the one in the photo and is struggling to get the lid into the hole, put your hand over your child’s hand and guide her hand, while you verbalise what you are doing. You can say “turn your hand” while you gently turn her hand. This way your child is able to experience success and will start to learn how to try different ways if the first way doesn’t work. If your child is struggling and you take the lid from her and do it for her, then she believes that she is incapable of doing it and only an adult can manage. But if you use the “hand over hand” technique, then she will experience the joy of success herself, and it will motivate her to try again.
It is so important to remember that success in Maths is strongly linked to confidence. If a child believes that he will be able to solve a problem in Maths, then he is very likely to succeed. But so many of our children say, “Maths is too hard. I can’t do Maths”, so before they have even started, they have failed. It is our responsibility to help children to be excited to solve problems, and in so doing empower our children to tackle Maths more confidently.