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Problem Solving-Much More than Addition and Subtraction

by Early Math Counts

Take a look at this short video from the Increase your Knowledge page on the Early Math Counts website and consider the following:

1.  How do you promote problem-solving skills with your children?

2.  When opportunities arise for children to “figure things out” on their own, do you let them?

3.  Are you often tempted to do things for children that they can do for themselves?

4.  Is it easier and quicker to solve children’s problems than allowing them the time and support to solve them for themselves?

Yesterday, I was in a 3-year-old classroom where the teacher has spent the better part of the year focusing on supporting children’s independence, autonomy, and problem-solving skills.  I was sitting on the rug while she read a story when I noticed a boy trying very hard to tie his shoes.  He glanced over at me and I found myself whispering, “Do you want me to help you tie your shoes?”  He looked at me like I was speaking Latin.  I then remembered that the children in this room are encouraged to solve their own problems, figure things out for themselves, and work diligently to get hard jobs done.  Although it took a long time, and the laces didn’t look too secure, he did get those shoes tied without my help.

This interaction reminded me that even though I like to be helpful and fix things, this is not ideal for young children as they develop autonomy.  What makes me feel good and useful is not and should not be the focus of my interactions with children.


12 Replies to “Problem Solving-Much More than Addition and Subtraction”

  1. It is important for children to try things on their own more than once so they can problem solve themselves.

  2. we sometimes forget that we have to sit back and let the children figure things out for themselves and its truly a amazing feeling when you realize that that can solve problems on their own ans have their own views on how to solve the problems they are facing

  3. It is important for our children to try and figure out different scenarios on problem solving themselves and then we can step in and communicate with them how they came to that conclusion.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with the above comments; the temptation is to race to give the child the answer even though the process of problem solving for the child is as important as coming up with the correct answer. We need to slow down, hand it over to the child, and listen to what their approach is. Then we can jump in and meet them where they are at with scaffolding support.

  5. I loved this video and explanation. So many times I have found my class say 8 boys = 7 girls 15 children and I now see clear the problem is they do not understand the language and the meaning of the symbols because I have not explained them clearly enough and I now have ideas on how to fix this problem and help the children get a better understanding of what we are doing

  6. I agree with this post and it was a little bit challenging to change my wanting to help by doing into helping by having them do for themselves but children are more likely to live up to the expectations we have for them even if the expectations may be a bit challenging at first.

  7. I believe that children are more likely to live up to the expectations we have for them even if the expectations may be a bit challenging at first.

  8. I agree with this post. Working with young two year olds, I spend the first month showing them how to do it and having them try first. Then I tell them they can do it!

  9. It is so very important to use the proper vocabulary words when the children are communicating about math situations. These words aid in their understanding of the processes they are working in and in their daily activities.

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