Mathematics Solved Problems

Schoenfeld also suggested that a good problem should be one which can be extended to lead to mathematical explorations and generalisations.

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Mathematicians who successfully solve problems say that the experience of having done so contributes to an appreciation for the 'power and beauty of mathematics' (NCTM, 1989, p.77), the "joy of banging your head against a mathematical wall, and then discovering that there might be ways of either going around or over that wall" (Olkin and Schoenfeld, 1994, p.43). 'Constructing meaningful understanding of mathematics content', in Aichele, D. (Eds.) Professional Development for Teachers of Mathematics , pp.

They also speak of the willingness or even desire to engage with a task for a length of time which causes the task to cease being a 'puzzle' and allows it to become a problem.

For these reasons problem solving can be developed as a valuable skill in itself, a way of thinking (NCTM, 1989), rather than just as the means to an end of finding the correct answer.

Many writers have emphasised the importance of problem solving as a means of developing the logical thinking aspect of mathematics.

As was pointed out earlier, standard mathematics, with the emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge, does not necessarily cater for these needs.

Resnick (1987) described the discrepancies which exist between the algorithmic approaches taught in schools and the 'invented' strategies which most people use in the workforce in order to solve practical problems which do not always fit neatly into a taught algorithm. In the past decade it has been suggested that problem-solving techniques can be made available most effectively through making problem solving the focus of the mathematics curriculum. Although mathematical problems have traditionally been a part of the mathematics curriculum, it has been only comparatively recently that problem solving has come to be regarded as an important medium for teaching and learning mathematics (Stanic and Kilpatrick, 1989). More recently the Council endorsed this recommendation (NCTM, 1989) with the statement that problem solving should underly all aspects of mathematics teaching in order to give students experience of the power of mathematics in the world around them. They see problem solving as a vehicle for students to construct, evaluate and refine their own theories about mathematics and the theories of others. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) (1980). Resnick expressed the belief that 'school should focus its efforts on preparing people to be good adaptive learners, so that they can perform effectively when situations are unpredictable and task demands change' (p.18). Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, Reston, Virginia: NCTM. Cockcroft (1982) also advocated problem solving as a means of developing mathematical thinking as a tool for daily living, saying that problem-solving ability lies 'at the heart of mathematics' (p.73) because it is the means by which mathematics can be applied to a variety of unfamiliar situations. A further reason why a problem-solving approach is valuable is as an aesthetic form. Problem solving allows the student to experience a range of emotions associated with various stages in the solution process. Through a problem-solving approach, this aspect of mathematics can be developed. Presenting a problem and developing the skills needed to solve that problem is more motivational than teaching the skills without a context.


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