In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about imparting value education in schools. Society today has reached a stage where it is very important to educate people in the traditional values of their culture. Through role models and discussions, teachers are increasingly being pressurized to impart value education in schools.
One of the many ways in which value education can be incorporated in schools is by adopting a problem solving approach to teaching mathematics. By using this approach you can –
In a constantly changing environment where technology is making large quantities of information easily accessible, individuals must learn to think for themselves. They must also learn to adapt to unpredictable and unfamiliar situations. Certain skills and functions which are a part of everyday life can be encompassed through mathematics. These practical skills may be –
When a problem is presented and the skills required to solve that problem are developed, it motivates the student to learn mathematics and become more deeply involved in the learning process. Teaching through problem solving enhances logical reasoning. Problem solving also allows the person to develop as a whole.
There are three types of problems to which students should be exposed.
Word problems where the concept is embedded in real-life situations. The student is required here to recognize the problem and apply the necessary rule. The following examples will show how values such as sharing, caring and conserving energy may be used while preparing the problems
Problems which contain too much of information so that the child can select what is relevant and important. Here the child must use his common sense and general knowledge rather than just bookish knowledge.
Example : Last week Shekhar travelled by train from Lucknow to Bangalore covering a distance of 1093 kms. The train left at 8 am and travelled at a speed of 86 km/hr for the first four hours of the journey. At Jhansi station, the train was detained for one and half hours. It resumed its journey and travelled for another three hours at 78 km/hr. What was the distance travelled so far ?
Problems which encourage students to be resourceful. These problems are often known as Fermi problems after the mathematician who made them popular. When students first see a Fermi problem, they think they need more information to solve it. Actually, just common sense and experience can lead them to the solution. These problems can be solved in a cooperative environment.
These problems can be related to social issues. Example :
In order to enhance students’ understanding, they can be asked to make up their own problems. This will encourage them to be flexible and to look at a problem in more than one way. The teacher can help by giving a theme so that it will help them to focus on the underlying values as well as the mathematics.
These can be used for encouraging logical thinking, reinforcing a student’s understanding of a concept and to develop problem-solving strategies which can be applied to other situations.
Example : Can you find the mystery number ?
A problem-solving approach can provide a vehicle for students to construct their own ideas about mathematics and to take responsibility for their own learning. This approach encourages flexibility and the ability to respond to situations which do not have an immediate solution. It also helps to develop perseverance in the face of failure. Not only are these important mathematical skills, but they are also important life-skills. They help to expose students to a value education which is so essential to their holistic development.