Photo Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6f/Einstein-formal_portrait-35.jpg
“The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.”
― Albert Einstein
It would be fair to suggest that we have all heard of problem solving! It is lauded as an essential 21st century skill. We ask each other if we are asking our students to “problem solve”. While this is not unimportant, Einstein’s 20th century quote above might be putting a new spin on this 21st century skill that we have not considered – that finding the problem might be more important that solving it!
Somewhere in my past I remember listening to a speaker (maybe it was a TED Talk) whose main idea was that we should be spending a LOT more time working with students on FINDING the problems, and then solving them. If I remember rightly, he was suggesting that handing a student a page full of “problems” and asking them to “solve” them was missing the point somewhat.
Maybe it is like an IKEA dining table you bring home.
Here are all the parts you need, and the tools you will need to use with the parts, and a book that gives you the step by step instructions for putting the table together, and a picture of what each step should look like, and a picture of the finished product, and a helpline number to call if you mess things up. Or, if that’s too hard, here is the number for a couple of guys who can come to your house and solve your building problem for you (for a small fee of course!).
Imagine what would happen if the IKEA table came with five extra pieces, no tools, no picture and no helpline! (Oops, someone just fainted!)
If you have ever watched a child receive a Lego set as a present, there is that short period of “building the IKEA table” where the booklet is opened, the steps are followed and the “thing” is built. It is played with for a short period. The car zooms. But then… the car crashes and the pieces come apart and the car merges with the house and the boat to become become a hovercraft with a time travelling switch and a laser cannon and next thing the room, and everyone in it, is being blasted by lasers and transported into the future.
I wonder what would happen if you started playing lego with all your different pieces of IKEA furniture???
As you continually challenge your students to solve problems, how can you challenge them to FIND the problems and then solve them? How can you make those problems you are posing embedded in the REAL world, rather than the SCHOOL world?
How can the problems you challenge your students to find and solve REALLY help them with the problems they are going to encounter and attempt to solve this afternoon as they walk/cycle/bus/train home from school?
And apologies if you are still having shivers from the “five extra pieces” IKEA thought!