• Christian Paul

Problem-solving questions are useless unless students know this

Updated: May 21



Every educator knows the value of problem-solving questions for their students.

Unfortunately, most students have no such concept as to why the questions are so useful. It’s not your fault. It’s ours.


The reality is, that most teachers and tutors give their students problem-solving questions in the hope of building skills and processes far beyond simple Maths (or anything else).


And, to an extent, that’s exactly what those questions are for. There’s only one issue.

We always forget to teach our students WHY problem solving questions are so valuable.

Which usually strips this practice of all value.


Which (I’m pretty sure) is why all students hate these questions: because they can’t see the point.


Am I right or am I right?


Problem-solving questions are all about… well… problems

I don’t mean tricky Calculus or challenging Chemistry equations.


I mean the act of breaking down an issue into manageable parts, organising them, and creating a series of processes to manage what could otherwise be an overwhelming scenario.


Doesn’t that sound like a skill that might be useful in the wide world?


Honestly, this the reason that Maths problems (in particular, but not exclusively) are actually such great practice for you the big wide world.


Not because you’ll need to find the angle in a triangle or the volume of an impossibly perfect sphere. Problem-solving questions are so useful because they teach you how to break down, plan and organise your strategy.


We don’t care about the Maths…

Well, OK, we kind of care about the Maths. But honestly, we’re more concerned with you learning how to build up your own study skills and problem-solving methods.


Because those are the skills that will actually make a difference in your life beyond school.

And ultimately, that’s the reason that teachers and tutors are so passionate about problem-solving questions, and why we won’t give you a break!


Once you understand their purpose, you get much more out of them

Just in simply having a reason to actually attempt the questions, you as a student will be better off.


So, the next time you get frustrated with tackling challenging worded problem-solving questions, try to remember this:


The whole point of these questions isn’t to mess with you; it’s to build problem-solving skills that will last you long into the future.

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