Thursday, 1 November 2012

Problem Solving

A problem-solving approach encourages children to reason their way to a solution or new understanding. The communication and reflection that occur during and after the process of problem solving help children see the problem they are solving from different perspectives. Knowledge gained from engagement in all of these processes helps children begin to recognize the range of strategies that can be used to arrive at a solution. By seeing how others solve a problem, children can begin to reflect on their own thinking and the thinking of others.
(The Full Day Early Learning Program Document 2010, p.98)

Collecting leaves during
an Autumn nature walk.

During a Fall nature walk, the children collected many leaves. Back in the classroom, we began a discussion about the different colours, shapes and sizes of the collected leaves. We reflected on our learning from our Apple Sorting activity. The children then formed smaller groups and were given a bag of leaves. The problem solving question used for student investigation was:

How can you sort the leaves?


The children represented their learning by manipulating the leaves into different groups based on a sorting rule determined by each group.


Each group communicated their mathematical thinking orally and visually by drawing pictures of their sorting piles.


The children reflected on the learning and their understanding of the concept of sorting as they explained how they solved their problem to each other. 

Sorting by Colour

How S.T, S.M, B.Y. and M.L. solved the problem:

This group of children set out to work right away. They identified the many different colours of the leaves and decided to sort the leaves by colour. 

Sorting by Shape and Colour

How I.G, E.L, S, and E.C. solved the problem:

The group of SK students began sorting the leaves by 

Ms. Nitsotolis: Is there another way to sort the 

The group looked at the different shapes of the leaves and began to lay out the leaves according to shape and colour. 

Sorting by Size

How the JKs solved the problem:

The JK students began by observing the leaves in their bag. They held up the leaves to share with one another.

Ms. P: What do you see?

I: My leaf is small and Jahniya’s leaf is big.

J.M: This is big.

A.C: and my leaf is small.
Ms. P: I wonder how we could make piles of leaves that look like each other?

J.M: Put this and this (points to two small leaves and places them together).

I: and you can put the big leaves here.

A.C: Big leaf goes here! Its big!

Building Vocabulary 

while Problem Solving

J.M: (Holds up a medium sized leaf) I don’t know where to put it.

Ms. P: I wonder where we could put this leaf?

I: But it’s not small and it’s not big.

Ms. P: What is a name for something not big or small?

I used this as an opportunity to incorporate a new math terminology for our JK students.

Ms. P: When something is not big or small it is called, medium. I wonder what we should do with all of the medium sized leaves?

J.M: Put it here! (Points to new pile.)

The children continue sorting the leaves by size, this time placing all the medium sized leaves in the medium sorting pile. 

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