Problem Solving in Guided Math Groups: Part 3
The Polya Problem Solving Method – Step 1 Understand the Problem
George Polya was a famous mathematician who theorized about how to teach problem solving. He identified four elements of problem solving.
- Understand the problem
- Devise a plan
- Carry out the plan
- Look Back
Sounds much simpler than it often turns out to be. Let’s start with 1.
How do we know that students really understand the problem? I have recently started asking students to do two things first.
- I want them to close their eyes and visualize the problem. Make into a mini-movie. What is happening? Who are the characters? What are they doing? Where are they? What are they trying to find out? Then I have them open their eyes and discuss/explain what they saw?
- I have them translate the problem into their own words. They share their translations with a partner. Then we share out as a group.
So for me, Step 1: Understand the problem means visualize and translate what is happening.