## How to Succeed in Math: Answer-Getting vs. Problem-Solving

You want your child to succeed in math because it opens so many doors in the future.

But kids have a short-term perspective. They don’t really care about the future. They care about getting through tonight’s homework and moving on to something more interesting.

When kids face a difficult math problem, their attitude can make all the difference. Not so much their “I hate homework!” attitude, but their mathematical worldview.

Answer-getting asks “What is the answer?”, decides whether it is right, and then goes on to the next question.

Problem-solving asks “Why do you say that?” and listens for the explanation.

Problem-solving is not really interested in “right” or “wrong”—it cares more about “makes sense” or “needs justification.”

### Homeschool Memories

In our quarter-century-plus of homeschooling, my children and I worked our way through a lot of math problems. But often, we didn’t bother to take the calculation all the way to the end.

Why didn’t I care whether my kids found the answer?

Because the thing that intrigued me about math was the web of interrelated ideas we discovered along the way:

• How can we recognize this type of problem?
• What other problems are related to it, and how can they help us understand this one? Or can this problem help us figure out those others?
• What could we do if we had never seen a problem like this one before? How would we reason it out?
• Why does the formula work? Where did it come from, and how is it related to basic principles?
• What is the easiest or most efficient way to manipulative the numbers? Does this help us see more of the patterns and connections within our number system?
• Is there another way to approach the problem? How many different ways can we think of? Which way do we like best, and why?

### What Do You think?

How did you learn math? Did your school experience focus on answer-getting or problem-solving?

How can we help our children learn to think their way through math problems?