Few subjects in elementary school induce as much fear and dread in students as math. A few math concepts face as much chagrin as mathematical word problems. Many have left students confused and worse, discouraged.
But math problems, particularly word problems, are essential building blocks to fostering strong problem-solving skills in children. The comprehensive ability to problem solve goes beyond mathematical skills. It’s a valuable general skill that requires nurturing at an early age.
The ability to problem solve means children can generate ideas that conclude with solutions, teaching confidence, while instilling the courageous desire to independently identify, address, and tackle problems. Confidence in solving problems is a necessary life skill that will continue on with them after the last arithmetic equation is solved.
So how can parents assist their children in building self-composure, confidence and independence when it comes to problem-solving? Here are seven ways to build up problem confidence.
In life as in math, the key to understanding any problem is knowing key fundamental elements. At an early age, comprehension must be taught to enable children to understand how to identify and address a problem. Adult assistance must include modeling and coaching.
This allows the child to identify the problem, describe it, and brainstorm solutions to solve the problem.
Parents must give descriptive feedback to help boost their critical thinking skills. Encouraging children to be expressive with describing their feelings will help improve their ability to gather key information and resolve problems. This will, in turn, lead to greater confidence, resulting in a child’s ability to solve more difficult problems.
Reinforcing foundations requires daily practice. Whether its a math problem or a problem that occurs during the course of a day, revisiting key fundamental elements provides many teachable moments and additional support to enable children to become proficient problem solvers.
Every child learns differently. But, patterns will emerge that in how children identify and resolve issues. Children will quickly learn patterns in mathematics. 4 x 2 equates to 2 x 4, as the sum is synonymous with total, addition, or all together.
This mathematical application of finding an operation strategy can easily translate to general problem-solving skills. Patterns teach social skills. Asking nicely if you want to something can be synonymous with asking if you can play together in a child’s eyes.
Finding patterns affords children the opportunity to find different ways to reach a resolution. It evokes lateral thinking that will remain crucial as new social situations emerge or difficult emotional situations arise.
A child’s self-esteem is essential in determining how well they are equipped to handle daily problems like peer pressure, failures in school, responsibility, and friendships with others. The ability to develop healthy self-esteem in children is from doing, trying, failing, and trying again. The process of building competence builds confidence.
Children must be able to make choices, take chances, and understand the importance of responsibility in the choices they make. Parents who limit a child’s ability to make age-appropriate choices erodes self-esteem and confidence in their own strengths and abilities.
Healthy risks are important to the development of a child as the mistakes and risks they take provide crucial opportunities to apply their critical thinking skills to reach a positive resolution. Parents who limit their children’s ability to make mistakes or take risks will often do more harm than good in their child’s development into adulthood.
One of the best ways to build a child’s confidence and instill a sense of pride and accomplishment, all the while developing their critical problem-solving skills, is by providing age-appropriate opportunities to be helpful.
Responsibilities like putting napkins on plates at the dinner table, assisting with watering plants and feeding the family pet, and picking up toys are just some examples of ways children can help around the house and feel needed, useful, and important. Be specific though about the expectations you have regarding the assigned tasks.
This will set useful guidelines for your child while developing decision making.
Recognition of the successful accomplishments of tasks and problem-solving boosts confidence and the desire to continue succeeding. When you encourage your child to work on mastering difficult tasks, such as tying their shoes or transitioning from training wheels, you show understanding and empathy, two other general life skills they will need to develop.
Be careful not to coddle your child though. Overpraising results in more harm than good. Too much praise can lead to children feeling like they have to perform to an impossible standard. This will hinder their developmental capabilities and possibly erode any desire to keep improving.
Emphasize that failure is okay and that it is opportunities for growth. Provide guidance and support when problem-solving tasks become difficult or frustrating.
No matter the age, unpleasant and difficult feelings will inevitably occur. Feeling frustration, sadness, disappointment, or even regret is an important part of growth and development. It is in these moments that we develop the right coping mechanisms to overcome such difficulties.
Children will need to understand the value of difficult emotions. Times of unpleasantness helps build resilience and establishes the various ways to manage feelings in social settings. Never belittle their feelings of difficulty.
Be patient and create avenues of conversation that bolsters problem-solving chances.
Children learn by seeing and doing. And when it comes to authoritative figures such as parents or teachers, children are keenly aware of their habits and behaviors. Your responses to conflict resolution or challenging problems will be imitated by your child.
If you manage difficulty with negative responses, your child will learn this approach and model their behavior accordingly. It’s important you show your child positive reinforcement by addressing problems in a positive, critical manner. Your ability to focus on positive outcomes will benefit your teach your child that problem-solving is an important and necessary developmental skill at any age.
As certain as death and taxes, conflicts arise on a daily basis. The ability to resolve such conflicts requires strong fundamental problem-solving skills. Building confidence and the necessary skills to solve problems takes time. As a parent, participate in the complete process – from identifying the problems to decision making.
In this way, you encourage positive growth and development, both of which are necessary to feel more confident.
Maloy Burman is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Premier Genie FZ LLC. He is responsible for driving Premier Genie into a leadership position in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education space in Asia, Middle East and Africa and building a solid brand value. Premier Genie is currently running 5 centers in Dubai and 5 centers in India with a goal to multiply that over the next 5 years.
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