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Four Steps to Successful Problem Solving

Most problem-solving strategies involve four basic steps. Depending on what materials you use, the names of the steps may change, but what happens within each step is the same. In this web-based professional development section, you will focus on using the problem-solving approach adapted from the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) website.

The NCTM approach to problem solving involves four basic steps:

  • Find Out
  • Choose a Strategy
  • Solve It
  • Look Back

Good problem solvers can explain how they solved a problem. Students who struggle with problem solving will often have no idea of how they arrived at the solution to a given problem.

You can help your students become better problem solvers by asking them to verbalize the steps that they used when solving specific problems. They may not be able to do that at first, but you can help guide them by prompting them with specific questions.