Building Problem-solving skills for math

Building Problem-solving Skills for 7th-Grade Math

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Mathematics is a subject that requires problem-solving skills to excel. In 7th grade, students begin to encounter more complex math concepts, and the ability to analyze and solve problems becomes increasingly important. Building problem-solving skills for math not only helps students to master math concepts but also prepares them for success in higher-level math courses and in life beyond academics. 

In this article, we will several key skills that are needed for success in 7th-grade math, and also explore how they can benefit students both academically and personally. We will also provide tips and strategies to help students develop and improve their problem-solving skills. Let’s dive in!

Building Analytical Skills

The first of seven important skills to build is that of analytical skills. These allow students to analyze a problem and break it down into smaller parts. From there, they’re able to identify the key components that need to be addressed. Analytical skills also hone students’ abilities to identify patterns. Students should be able to identify patterns in mathematical data, such as in number sequences, geometric shapes, and graphs. Importantly, students should not just be able to recognize the pattens, but they should be able to describe them (more on that in communication) and use them to make predictions and solve problems.

We alluded to this earlier, but breaking down problems is an essential component of analytical skills. Students with strong analytical skills can break problems down into smaller and more manageable parts. They are then able to identify key components of a problem and use this information to develop a strategy for solving it. 

Along with identifying patterns comes identifying relationships. Students with good mathematical analytical skills can identify relationships between different mathematical concepts, such as the relationship between addition and subtraction, or the relationship between angles and shapes. Through strengthening this skill, students will be able to describe these relationships and use them to solve problems. 

An important part of analytical skills is the ability to analyze data. Students should be able to analyzeand interpret data presented in a variety of formats, such as graphs, charts, and tables. They should be able to use this data to make predictions, draw conclusions, and solve problems.

Speaking of conclusions, reaching sound conclusions based on mathematical data is a fundamental skill needed for making predictions based on trends in a graph, or drawing inferences from a set of data.

Another skill students should master is the ability to compare and contrast mathematical concepts, such as the properties of different shapes or the strategies for solving different types of problems. Through this, they’ll be able to use the information they gather to solve problems. 

With all these skills at play comes arguably the most important: Critical thinking. This is an indicator that a student really grasps the concepts and it’s just repeating them back to you on command. Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate information and arguments, and make judgements and decisions based on evidence, and apply logic and reasoning to solve problems.

Building Creative Thinking

This is the ability for students (or anyone, really) to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to problems. This involves being able to approach problems from different angles and to consider multiple perspectives. For a 7th-grader, this skill can be exercised through the following:

  1. Thinking Outside the Box: Students should be encouraged to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to problems. This involves thinking outside the box and considering multiple perspectives.
  2. Finding Multiple Solutions: Students should be able to come up with multiple solutions to a problem and evaluate each one to determine which is the most effective.
  3. Developing Original Ideas: Students should be able to develop original ideas and approaches to solving problems. This involves being able to come up with unique and innovative solutions that may not have been tried before.
  4. Making Connections: Students should be able to make connections between different mathematical concepts and apply these connections to solve problems. This involves looking for similarities and differences between concepts and using this information to make new connections.
  5. Visualizing Solutions: Students should be able to visualize solutions to problems and use diagrams, charts, and other visual aids to help them solve problems.
  6. Using Metaphors and Analogies: Students should be able to use metaphors and analogies to help them understand complex mathematical concepts. This involves using familiar concepts to explain unfamiliar ones and making connections between different ideas.

Building Problem-Solving Strategies

It may sound like the same thing, but building problem-solving strategies is not the same as building problem-solving skills. Building strategies for problem-solving lends itself to actual problem-solving. Let’s expand on this: Say your student is presented a problem that they’re struggling with, these are some of the problem-solving strategies they may use in order to solve the puzzle.

  • Identify the problem: The first step in problem-solving is to identify the problem and understand what is being asked. Students should carefully read the problem and make sure they understand the question before attempting to solve it.
  • Draw a diagram: Students can draw a diagram to help visualize the problem and better understand the relationships between different parts of the problem.
  • Use logic: Students can use logic to identify patterns and relationships in the problem. They can use this information to develop a plan to solve the problem.
  • Break the problem down: Students can break a complex problem down into smaller, more manageable parts. They can then solve each part of the problem individually before combining the solutions to get the final answer.
  • Guess and check: Students can guess and check different solutions to the problem until they find the correct answer. This method involves trying different solutions and evaluating the results until the correct answer is found.
  • Use algebra: Algebraic equations can be used to solve a variety of mathematical problems. Students can use algebraic equations to represent the problem and solve for the unknown variable.
  • Work backward: Students can work backward from the final answer to determine the steps required to solve the problem. This method involves starting with the end goal and working backward to determine the steps needed to get there.

Building Persistence and Perseverance

In an increasingly instant-gratification world with apps, searches and AI chatbots just a click away, this is an important skill not just in the math classroom, but for life in general. Problem-solving, whether that’s a math problem or a life challenge, often requires persistence and perseverance. Student need to learn to be able to stick with a problem even when it seems challenging, difficult, or seemingly impossible. Here are ways you can encourage your students to stick it out when working on problems:

  1. Trying multiple approaches: When faced with a challenging problem, students can demonstrate persistence by trying multiple approaches until they find one that works. They don’t give up after one attempt but keep trying until they find a solution.
  2. Reframing the problem: If a problem seems particularly difficult, students can demonstrate perseverance by reframing the problem in a different way. This can help them see the problem from a new perspective and come up with a different approach to solve it.
  3. Asking for help: Sometimes, even with persistence, a problem may still be difficult to solve. In these cases, students can demonstrate perseverance by asking for help from their teacher or classmates. This shows that they are willing to put in the effort to find a solution, even if it means seeking assistance.
  4. Learning from mistakes: Making mistakes is a natural part of the problem-solving process, but students can demonstrate persistence by learning from their mistakes and using them to improve their problem-solving skills. They don’t get discouraged by their mistakes, but instead, they use them as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  5. Staying focused: In order to solve complex math problems, it’s important for students to stay focused and avoid distractions. Students can demonstrate perseverance by staying focused on the problem at hand and not getting distracted by other things.

Building Communication Skills

Communication is essential for building problem-solving skills for math

We alluded to this earlier, but a central part of building problem-solving skills is building the ability to articulate a problem or a solution. This isn’t just for the sake of personal understanding, but critical for collaboration. Students need to be able to explain their thinking, ask questions, and work with others to solve problems. Here are some examples of communication skills that can be used to build problem-solving skills:

  • Clarifying understanding: Students can ask questions to clarify their understanding of the problem. They can seek clarification from their teacher or classmates to ensure they are interpreting the problem correctly.
  • Explaining their reasoning: When solving a math problem, students can explain their reasoning to show how they arrived at a particular solution. This can help others understand their thought process and can also help students identify errors in their own work.
  • Collaborating with peers: Problem-solving can be a collaborative effort. Students can work together in groups to solve problems and communicate their ideas and solutions with each other. This can lead to a better understanding of the problem and can also help students learn from each other.
  • Writing clear explanations: When presenting their solutions to a math problem, students can write clear and concise explanations that are easy to understand. This can help others follow their thought process and can also help them communicate their ideas more effectively.
  • Using math vocabulary: Math has its own language and using math vocabulary correctly is essential for effective communication. Students can demonstrate their understanding of math concepts by using correct mathematical terms and symbols when explaining their solutions.

Building Mathematical Knowledge

Building problem-solving skills for math involves solid understanding of mathematical concepts

This would seem like a no-brainer, since you’re a math educator clicking on an article about building math problem-solving skills. However, it’s worth being explicit that problem-solving in math requires a solid understanding of mathematical concepts, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. Students need to be able to apply these concepts to solve problems in real-world contexts.

7th-grade math covers a wide range of mathematical concepts and skills. Here are some examples of mathematical knowledge that 7th-grade math students should have:

  1. Algebraic expressions and equations: Students should be able to write and simplify algebraic expressions and solve one-step and two-step equations.
  2. Proportional relationships: Students should be able to understand and apply proportional relationships, including identifying proportional relationships in tables, graphs, and equations.
  3. Geometry: Students should have a solid understanding of geometry concepts such as angles, triangles, quadrilaterals, circles, and transformations.
  4. Statistics and probability: Students should be able to analyze and interpret data using measures of central tendency and variability, and understand basic probability concepts.
  5. Rational numbers: Students should have a solid understanding of rational numbers, including ordering, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions and decimals.
  6. Integers: Students should be able to perform operations with integers, including adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.
  7. Ratios and proportions: Students should be able to understand and use ratios and proportions in a variety of contexts, including scale drawings and maps.

In conclusion, problem-solving skills are essential for success in 7th grade math. Analytical skills, critical and creative thinking, problem-solving strategies, persistence, communication skills, and mathematical knowledge are all important components of effective problem-solving. By developing these skills, students can approach math problems with confidence and achieve their full potential.

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