“There’s more than one way to get to Food City.” That’s what I tell my students when they discover that all situations, not just in math, have multiple solution paths. For instance, think about loading a dishwasher! How many ways, styles, techniques can there be? Dozens!
Now let’s apply that to solving math equations — there are multiple solution paths to every equation. And the method that works for one student is not the most efficient for another. The ‘my teacher doesn’t do it that way’ argument falls flat! So…. don’t be concerned that you ‘aren’t teaching it the same way’. That’s OK! It’s healthy for students to see many ways to solve.
Tutors and teachers typically encourage students to share their thought process. Research states:
Students who learn how to use multiple problem-solving strategies are able to approach problems with greater ease and flexibility in finding solutions. Teachers should demonstrate that problems can be solved in multiple ways and that approaches to problem-solving should be selected for their ease and efficiency. Teachers can present students with a number of problem-solving strategies and then give them the opportunity to compare, contrast, and carry out the strategies. (Woodward, J., Beckman, S., Driscoll, M., Franke, M., Herzig, P., Jitendra, A., Koedinger, K. R., & Ogbuehi, P. (2018). Improving mathematical problem solving in grades 4 through 8)
Encouraging students to approach problems in different ways is healthy! Students who explore multiple solution paths become more confident math students. Having multiple solution paths allows students to use their creativity and makes problem solvers accessible to all learning styles.
5 Reasons to encourage multiple solution paths:
- Allows students to use their creativity in solving
- Explaining their reasoning to others enhances communication skills
- Math confidence increases when students realize that there is not just ONE method
- Allows students to flex their problem-solving muscles
- Encourages perseverance and patience
We often hear from parents: “The teacher doesn’t teach it like I learned it. I’m afraid I will confuse them.” Nope. Bring open-mindedness back to the table! Tell your child that learning to do things (most anything!) benefits from flexible and creative thought!
Message to Parents — Relax! Help your child and let them know that “the road to Food City has many routes.”