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Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning involves students

exploring real-world problems using their own
experiences, classroom materials, and problem-
solving processes. The problems students are
asked to solve often have more than one
solution, or no real solutions. This allows
students to explore multiple options and
avenues, just as they will have to in the real
This inquiry-based approach allows students
responsibility and choice, while the teachers
construction of the problems helps students
realize the need to learn and use disciplinary
concepts. Because the problems are introduced
at the beginning of the unit/lesson, students
recognize the use of learning new skills in order
to solve real-world problems. The most
important role of teachers in this pedagogy is to
help construct problems where disciplinary
concepts are necessary to understanding the
Students succeed in problem-based classrooms
because learning occurs as a side-effect of
exploring real-world problems. Instead of
memorizing materials or processes, students use
disciplinary concepts in ways they find relevant.
They are more likely to remember how
disciplinary material is used, and more likely to
want to learn disciplinary material.
Problem-based learning has been used
extensively in the medical field, to help train
future doctors. Because problem-solving
processes are used in most real-world jobs,
relationships, and basic day-to-day living, it is
important students have the skills necessary to
approaching problems.

Alper, Lynne, Fendel, Dan, Fraser, Sherry, and
Resek, Diane. Problem-Based Mathematics
Not Just for the College-Bound. Educational
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Erickson, Dianne K. A Problem-Based
Approach to Mathematics Instruction. The
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Hjalmarson, Margret A., and Heidi Diefes-Dux.
"Teacher as Designer: A Framework for
Teacher; Analysis of Mathematical Model-
Eliciting Activities." Interdisciplinary Journal of
Problem-based Learning 2.1 (2008): 57-78.

Hmelo-Silver, Cindy E., Duncan, Ravit Duncan,
and Chinn, Clark A. Scaffolding and
Achievement in Problem-Based and Inquiry
Learning: A Response to Kirschner, Sweller,
and Clark (2006) Educational Psychologist
42.2 (2007): 99-107.

Kinloch, Valerie. Harlem on our minds: Place,
race, and the literacies of urban youth. Teachers
College Press, 2010.

Kirschner, Paul A., Sweller, John, and Clark,
Richard E. Why Minimal Guidance During
Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the
Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-
Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based
Teaching. Educational Psychologist 41.2
(2006): 75-86.

Mooney, Micheal A. and Laubach, Timothy A.
Adventure Engineering: A Design Centered,
Inquiry Based Approach to Middle Grade
Science and Mathematics Education. Journal of
Engineering Education (2002): 309-318.

Swan, Karen, Vahey, Phil, vantHooft, Mark,
Kratcoski, Annette, Rafanan, Ken, Stanford,
Tina, Yarnall, Louise, and Cook, Dale.
Problem-based Learning across the
Curriculum: Exploring the Efficacy of a Cross-
curricular Application of Preparation for Future
Learning Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem
Based Learning 7.1 (2013): 91-110.

Problem-Based Learning

In practice (mathematics)
The teacher explains real-world uses for
logarithms (a good place to start is
here). Then, the groups work on one of
the examples given, with a series of
possible scenarios, and use logarithms
(written out mathematically) to explain
what is going on and predict possible
Acquire schematics for a typical house
or building in the neighborhood. Have
students attempt to rebuild said
building to scale. (Ratios and angles).
Once done, ask student how they would
improve the model for their dream
home or dream office.
Students are asked to research a
typical income for their community,
and then decide how to split that
income into appropriate places.
(Addition/subtraction, and, as part of
an assignment, savings or other interest
accounts/expenses i.e. like buying a

In practice (English)
Have students find a problem in their
school or community. Have them
identify one person or group of people
who can influence the problem, and
write letters or speeches (depending on
context) to them.
Use multiple forms of text to answer an
abstract question, such as what makes
a good leader? (Historical documents,
poetry, plays, short stories, novel(s),
billboards, posters, etc.).
Ask students to find criteria for:
o Which websites can I trust for
o How do I convey emotion in
online posts? (Facebook,
Twitter, etc.)
o When using search engines,
which phrasings are more
efficient to achieve desired

In Practice: Bridging Mathematics and English
Do (racial, gendered, class, etc.) discriminations exist in our community? Have students find
signs, advertisements, news, etc. that shows evidence for or against. Ask them to find
national, federal, and local data of hate crimes and discrimination cases. If possible,
observe and record interactions at local businesses. Using these data, ask students to
answer the question, and create a multimodal presentation offering solutions for (a specific
subset of) our community. Lesson here.
Does word choice affect outcome? Have students find synonyms for common verbs (walk,
laugh, stand, etc.) and have different groups act out the synonyms. Students should find
advertisements (examples) to bring in, read for examples in literature, and collect their own
data (ex. questionnaires). Ask students to come to a conclusion, then work to create
graphs of commonly used words in their community. Ask them to decide if these words are
helpful or unhelpful for people using that service/business, based on the evidence from
their literature and advertisement explorations.