Genius Maker: How to Get Your Students on the Road to Becoming Problem Solvers

The ATT welcomed Rabbi Jonathan Chapman LSW to speak to teachers for a professional development course on problem solving. Rabbi Chapman emphasized the need for teachers to have a growth mindset with their students, focusing not where he/she is now but where he/she could be.

He presented the following six steps to encourage problem solving and student growth, a mixture of teacher guidance and student participation:

  1. Learn about the problem – Why is this a problem to begin with? What is the value of having this problem? Ask pre-problem questions – What kind of problem is this? What are the expectations? What are the skills needed to solve the problem?
  2. Question the choices and methods – How have my choices created this problem? Why haven’t I been able to solve this problem? When we approach a problem, the path we choose might bring us closer or further away from the solution. It’s what we do when we realize we are lost that makes the difference. Once we see what went wrong, we need to change our habits and future decisions. Teacher rapport can help with this situation.
  3. Identify patterns and relationships – What patterns exist and what do they reveal?
  4. Question your assumptions – What assumptions am I making about this? How are my assumptions misleading me?
  5. Pose “what if” scenarios – What if I thought about this differently? What if this wasn’t a problem at all? Asking “what if” questions can help identify potential problems early enough so that many can be minimized or eliminated BEFORE they occur, not after.
  6. Brainstorm how to solve the problem – How else could I solve this? How would the problem improve if…? What experiments could I conduct? Brainstorming is an excellent strategy to find out a student’s prior knowledge and give all students a chance to express their ideas. This process shows respect for others and cultivates individuality and creativity. It eliminates the fear of risk-taking and is a great way to promote thinking skills.

He concluded by emphasizing the importance for students to take small steps when trying to solve a problem along with the strategy known as “the Five B’s.”

Brain – If you are not sure, think about it first. Try to work out the answer on your own.

Board – If you are still stuck, look at the board. There is usually a clue or answer there.

Book – If you are still stuck, then look in your book next.

Buddy – Still not sure? Ask your “buddy” – he/she might know.

Boss – If he/she doesn’t know either, chances are lots of people are confused. This is now the time to ask the teacher for help!

Teachers left with practical ideas to foster a growth mindset and help their students solve problems.