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Lesson # 3

A Problem Solving Model

The world is full of problems. A problem exists when you are

presented with a situation and are at first unable to make sense of it.

The power of mathematics lies in the fact that many of these

problems can be modeled and presented as math problems. Problem solving

is perhaps the most important goal of math instruction.

This book will help you to become actively involved in problem

solving in two main ways. First by helping you to model real world

problems as math problems. Second by providing you with a variety of

strategies which are useful in solving math problems of all kinds.

Thirdly, you will learn to transfer or reword the mathematical solution

as a real world solution.

George Polya was one of the world’s greatest problem solvers. The

following problem solving model is an adaptation of the model developed

by George Polya.

The problem solving model consists of four stages.

Understand the Problem

First read the problem (several times if needed). Make sure you

understand it by asking yourself the following questions

• Do I understand all the words?

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• What information am I given?

• What am I asked to find? (Very important!)

• Can I state the problem in my own words?

• Am I given enough information?

• Am I given too much information? (this happens quite often)

• Have I solved a similar problem?

Understanding the problem is basically communication

Think of a Plan

Organize the information you need .Decide whether you need an

exact or approximate answer. Plan how to use the information. The

following list includes some of the problem solving strategies that may help.

• Act out the problem

• Manipulate materials

• Work backwards

• Account for all possibilities

• Change your point of view

• Draw a diagram

• Look for a pattern

• Make a table

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• Use a formula

• Guess and check

• Solve a simpler problem

• Use logical reasoning

Most of the math problems you will have to solve in this course have

only one correct solution. However you may be able to use several different

strategies to solve a single problem.

When thinking of a plan you will use math communication,

representation and making connections. You will also have to decide

which tools and strategies to use.

Carry out the Plan

Carry out your plan using paper and pencil, calculator, a computer or

manipulatives.

Check your calculations.

Write a final statement that gives the solution to the problem.

While carrying out the plan you will use various tools and

strategies

Look back

Check your answer against the original problem. Is your answer

reasonable?

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Is there an easier way to solve the problem?

Looking back is reflection

Practise

1 Draw Polya’s problem solving model. In the form of a flow chart.

2. Think of a real world problem (this may or may not require

mathematics). Propose a solution for this problem by using Polya’s problem

solving model.

3.Collect the problems proposed by classmates. Discuss them and

evaluate their solutions in a group discussion.

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