Email just in from a teacher:
“How you are tackling problem solving? Our learners and staff are finding it a challenge and I feel the key is to ensure it is right lower down in the school so that pupils have more skills to tackle problems when they are at KS4.”
And my response, copied here in case it’s useful…
My problem solving strategy would be, as frequently and as early as possible, to give students questions/problems that meld two or more topics together. For example in year 7 when you’re doing algebra, bring in angle problems that require some collecting of like terms. When you’re doing fractions bring in an area question where the side lengths are mixed numbers. With indices make the powers an algebraic expression.
As you get up to year 11, you’ll have to be creative and often invent random maths concoctions. It’s a worthwhile team planning exercise to write out things like: vectors, transformations, probability, trig, quadratics, volume, speed, angles in polygons, bearings, etc. on separate cards and then choose two at random to make a question from. For example if you choose speed and probability, can you and your partner invent a mash-up question?
I’m saying this because there aren’t enough of these combo problems to draw on at GCSE yet but that’s the direction they’re going. So for the time being we’re going to have to make them up and force ourselves (i.e. the teachers) to make the connections in the maths.
On the more reasoning type of problems, the total AO3 questions, you’ve got to make sure your school is prioritising English and reading in a big way from year 7. I mean like 8 hours of English a week plus 40 minutes of silent reading a day, plus any interventions required for the weakest.
Language is a pre-requisite for thought. The better your language skills the better your ability to think. You simply can’t reason without language. So until their literacy is supreme, their reasoning is going to suffer and no amount of highlighting keywords is going to really tackle the issue.
Every school should be a big reading school. Speak to your HoD, the English HoD, the school librarian, your HoY or even your Headteacher to find out how to give English and reading more prominence in year 7.
Just my thoughts quickly cobbled together. Discussions welcome in the comments.