One of our goals as teachers is to help students become better at solving problems, and to think of solving problems as a common, even exciting and engaging process. Another associated goal is to recognize and discuss with students the problem solving strategies that they employ in their work. Applying these techniques allows students to build their understanding of mathematical concepts while increasing the level of their confidence.

If you’ve ever heard a student say “I can’t do this,” or “I don’t know what to do,” then you’ve probably encountered the student’s perception that there is one correct procedure that should be followed when solving a particular problem and that he or she is not confident about what that procedure should be. Finding examples that allow students to explore different strategies and perhaps even find different solutions will assist them in building their skills.

The resources presented in the collection can assist teachers in building problem solving acumen. Resources include video clips from actual classrooms in which students work to solve problems, articles that relate helpful techniques, detailed descriptions of several strategies students can use when learning to solve problems, and suggestions of courses that help teachers to advance problem-solving with their classes.

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics includes a set of eight Standards for Mathematical Practice that “describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students.” The first Practice Standard is “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.” Students build these skills by having many opportunities to solve problems. By providing problems that allow students to engage in a variety of methods, to decide whether or not their efforts are leading to a solution, and to compare results with other students, teachers help students begin to “make sense” of problems and also to begin to develop perseverance.

Other Practice Standards (as well as the NCTM Process Standards) will be drawn into the problem-solving process as students gain confidence in their abilities. They will make sense not just of the problems they encounter, but also of the underlying mathematical concepts and connections. They will learn to choose and use appropriate tools and representations. Vocabulary develop can occur naturally as a result of collaboration and communication.

Spend some time with these resources, watch the videos, choose some strategies to try with your students, and enjoy the “Aha moments” you share as they develop their skills and deepen their understanding of mathematical concepts.