5 Reasons Why Students Benefit From A Problem-Centered Math Classroom


Teaching mathematics with a problem-centered approach may cause some teachers to step outside of their own comfort zone, the benefits that students receive from learning in this environment are well worth the discomfort that may be felt. Take a look at the 5 benefits of a problem-centered math classroom followed by a classroom video segment below.

1. Enhanced Content Knowledge and Deeper Conceptual Understanding.

Because students are working with the mathematics and not procedures and algorithms their mathematical understanding is taken to a much deeper level. Students are creating meaning versus fact collecting.

2. Fosters Mathematical Communication and Keep a Constant Flow of Dialog Between Teacher and Student

As students work with each other, present their findings, and answer teacher questions they are communicating both in writing and orally using mathematics vocabulary and concepts. No longer is just giving a final answer the only thing that needs to be communicated.

3. Increased Requirement for Student Ownership for the Work

In a problem-centered classroom, students are doing the work and engaging in positive student struggle as they work at honing their problem-solving skills. No longer is the teacher struggling to make the learning easy for every student.

4. Increased Retention and Motivation

Work completed in a problem-centered classroom “reflects the way a student’s mind actually works, not a set of parlor-game procedures for manipulating students into learning. Because students are afforded some freedom in selecting a solution strategy rather than being forced into a procedure that may not make sense to them, mathematics because less daunting leading to increased motivation for many students as well as greater levels of retention because there is meaning behind the work for each student.

5. Increase in the Connections Made Between Concepts and Skills

Because prior knowledge comes into play more quickly in a problem-centered classroom, students are able to more easily see and understand the connections between multiple concepts and procedures.

Watch the following video as this middle school teacher introduces ratios and proportional relations to her students using a problem-centered approach.

Often, as mathematics teachers, we are faced with covering a significant amount of material on a daily basis with our students. As the clock ticks louder and testing time draws near, we tend to begin to focus more on teaching students to get answers, rather than teaching students to solve problems. While this may be the reality for many, we have to know that teaching students to problem solve, rather than ‘answer get’, will be the more beneficial path to follow in the long run. One question or hesitation that many have when choosing the longer, more time-consuming path of teaching problem-solving is, “Will students rise to the occasion and meet the expectations, especially if they have been in answer-getting mode their whole school career”.

At Teach n’ Kids Learn (TKL) our focus has been to create a solution based professional development for teachers in grades K-12. TKL provides clock/credit hours toward state license renewal. All of our courses provide both continuing education units (CEU) and graduate level credits

As previously stated there are countless other benefits for both the teacher and the student by transitioning to a problem-centered classroom and as more teachers make this shift they will begin to see those personal benefits for themselves.

Here are a few of our online math courses that you may want to review.

  1. Developing Students’ Mathematical Habits of Mind, Grades K-12
  2. Developing Mathematical Expertise in a Problem-Centered Classroom
  3. Teaching Mathematics With Rigor and Results, Grades 3-10
  4. Preparing Students For More Rigorous Math Assessments, Grades 3-10

Please contact us for more information.