(M-ProSE) Mathematical Problem Solving for Everyone

Project Number
OER 32/08 TTL

Project Duration
April 2009 - June 2012


This project involves the development and implementation of a problem solving package (M-ProSE) in the secondary school mathematics curriculum. It aims to induct secondary school mathematics students into the discipline of mathematics via a programme that turns well established theories of mathematical problem solving into praxis. In contrast with conventional training for mathematics competitions which tend to be restricted to a small number, M-ProSE is designed for all mathematics students Development of the project: In a pilot study conducted over two years in an Integrated Programme of a junior college, the research team observed that students were generally resistant to following the stages of Polya's model. In an attempt to 'make' the students follow the Polya model, especially when they were clearly struggling with the problem, we decided to construct a worksheet like that used in science practical lessons and told the students to treat the problem solving class as a mathematics 'practical' lesson. In this way, we hoped to achieve a paradigm shift in the way students looked at these 'difficult, unrelated' problems which had to be done in this 'special' class. Practical work to achieve the learning of the scientific processes has a long history of at least a hundred years. It is certainly conceivable that similar specialised lessons and materials for mathematics may be necessary to teach the mathematical processes, including and via problem solving. Implementation of the project: M-ProSE is an attempt to teach problem solving in 'practical' setup. Students will be taught Polya's model and problem solving in general in two or three dedicated lectures. The main mode of learning is then through a series of 'mathematics practical' lessons. Students work on usually one or at most two problems which have to be worked out on a special worksheet which requires the student to systematically and metacognitively go through the Polya model. M-ProSe is to be implemented as part of the mathematics curriculum and will be assessed. In order to implement M-ProSE, we need to build the teachers' capacity first to solve non-routine mathematics problems and thereafter to teach problem solving to their students. This involves the researchers conducting a series of workshops for the school teachers to widen their repertoire of problem solving resources. Next, we will develop with the teachers the instructional strategies to teach problem solving to their students, by means of a lesson study approach. Some of the researchers will initially teach some student classes as a model for the teachers before they take over entirely. To contribute to the understanding of teaching mathematical problem solving in general, the researchers will collect data over some cohorts which will enable them to further improve the package and make the package useful to other schools. The evidence collected will provide the basis for pedagogical practices in the mathematics classrooms.

Research Themes

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 1: Everyone Can Solve Math Problems with Confidence

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