On Problem solving: Knowing what to ‘see’, when we can’t at first


I am writing this blog after the Maths Scholars Resources Workshop that took place nearly a week ago, at the National Stem Centre, University of York.

Having encountered the amazing world of the interlocking cube during the first session, it was time to explore some problem-solving resources presented by Michael Anderson from the National STEM Learning Centre. We reflected and appreciated different ways of ‘seeing’, for 45 mins.

The session focussed on the meaning of problem solving, how to teach problem solving skills and most significantly how we could use and adapt a variety of existing resources to encourage problem solving in our students whatever their ability.

Further on we looked at the requirements of the 9-1 GCSEs and what this means for maths teachers in terms of their responsibility for nurturing and challenging students to not only appreciate the richness and beauty of mathematics but produce confident learners ready for the world of work. I use the word ‘produce’ with care.
We took some tried and tested resources and ideas, ready to use in our maths classrooms.

One of many resources on problem solving included this one from Ed Southhall @solvemymaths

How many dots? What was your counting Strategy? 

Can you find another way of seeing and counting the dots? And another? And another? How quickly can you notice the different ways of seeing? 

Would there be benefits in trying to ‘see’ in pairs or in groups big or small? Is it okay to make mistakes and try again? 


Have you ever compared and contrasted a GCSE question against a Core maths (new qualification) question? The differences are VERY interesting. The Core maths questions in my opinion seem to offer more opportunity for deep thinking and exploring problem solving from different vantage points. The focus being not on always obtaining the right answer but the process skills, confidence and resilience involved in tackling the question and being able to take calculated risks. Isn’t that how we should teach our learners? Every learner-young and old? 

By Imogene Bongjoh-West