Hot Potato: Food for Thought
Why Johnny Can't...
Problem Solving
1997 September 17
Certain subjects like geometry and public speaking (oops, that got dropped, didn't it) are taught expressly to teach kids how to reason, how to apply logic to a problem.

What business, government, and society need are people who know how to solve problems. Problem solving is a complex art. It's a mix of creativity and imagination, research skills, logic and analysis, communication and cooperation, and an ability to synthesize a solution from all these inputs.

Not every student is going to get good at all phases of the task. The Germans have conducted some very successful experiments with cooperative learning which is also competitive. The class is divided into small groups. Within the group, you get ahead by cooperating. Within the class, the groups compete to arrive at the best or fastest solution to complex problems. This way of teaching problem solving closely simulates how the real world works. We need to apply some problem solving to the teaching of problem solving. The results should be interesting and may help us to solve some of our problems.

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