Problem solving is a mathematical process. It includes logic, reasoning, and communication skills.  

Mathematical problem solving is a critical skill for students because it helps students develop a generic ability to solve real-life problems and apply mathematics in real-life situations. Ultimately, being proficient, allows students to think critically and logically in diverse situations.  

“Where Is The Breakdown For Students?” 

  • Basic Fact Mastery – difficulty solving basic math problems, typically memorized in early childhood education (i.e. doubles or simple addition/subtraction/multiplication/division)
  • Making Connections – difficulty connecting abstract and concrete concepts 
  • Recall – difficulty retaining instructions or strategies for mathematical problem solving or slow recall speed of basic math facts 

Five areas school psychologists can consult with school teams in supporting students with math problem solving difficulties: 

  1. Critical Thinking

Critical Thinkers analyze and assess a variety of situations to make everyday decisions. School psychologists can consult teachers to use a variety of questioning techniques and use both problem and inquiry-based learning models to improve students’ critical thinking skills.  Check out the links at the bottom of this page for some examples.

  1. Reasoning 

Reasoning relates to how students make logical sense of situations and experiences.  Teachers can help students improve their reasoning skills by having students make and differentiate between inferences and observations and by using conditional statements (also known as “If/Then” statements – eg. If today is Monday, then yesterday was Tuesday.) in class discourse.

  1. Understanding Concepts 

Students with conceptual understanding know more than isolated facts or processes. They are able to communicate the deeper meaning of ideas and concepts. This skill can be improved by strengthening students’ ability to identify examples, non-examples, and attributes of a concept. 

  1. Real World Problem Solving 

Problem solving provides students with the opportunity to apply a generic ability to solve real-life problems. Using real-world examples in lessons and other in-school activities, can help students strengthen their real-world skills. 

  1. Working In Groups

Group work helps students navigate roles and responsibilities in a way that promotes the improvement of thinking skills. Using a variety of collaborative and discourse strategies, students can improve their problem solving skills. 

For more information on how to support students who struggle, check out our Math Problem Solving guide by clicking the button below.