Developing mathematical problem-solving skills in primary school by using visual representations on heuristics
Keywords:mathematical problem-solving, heuristics, proportional reasoning
Developing students’ skills in solving mathematical problems and supporting creative mathematical thinking have been important topics of Finnish National Core Curricula 2004 and 2014. To foster these skills, students should be provided with rich, meaningful problem-solving tasks already in primary school. Teachers have a crucial role in equipping students with a variety of tools for solving diverse mathematical problems. This can be challenging if the instruction is based solely on tasks presented in mathematics textbooks. The aim of this study was to map whether a teaching approach, which focuses on teaching general heuristics for mathematical problem-solving by providing visual tools called Problem-solving Keys, would improve students’ performance in tasks and skills in justifying their reasoning. To map students' problem-solving skills and strategies, data from 25 fifth graders’ pre-tests and post-tests with non-routine mathematical tasks were analysed. The results indicate that the teaching approach, which emphasized finding different approaches to solve mathematical problems had the potential for improving students’ performance in a problem-solving test and skills, but also in explaining their thinking in tasks. The findings of this research suggest that teachers could support the development of problem-solving strategies by fostering classroom discussions and using for example a visual heuristics tool called Problem-solving Keys.
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