Problem solving in a 21st century mathematics curriculum
English, Lyn D. & Gainsburg, Julie (2016) Problem solving in a 21st century mathematics curriculum. In English, Lyn D. & Kirshner, David (Eds.) Handbook of International Research in Mathematics Education [3rd Ed.]. Taylor and Francis, New York, pp. 313-335.
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Research on problem solving in the mathematics curriculum has spanned many decades, yielding pendulum-like swings in recommendations on various issues. Ongoing debates concern the effectiveness of teaching general strategies and heuristics, the role of mathematical content (as the means versus the learning goal of problem solving), the role of context, and the proper emphasis on the social and affective dimensions of problem solving (e.g., Lesh & Zawojewski, 2007; Lester, 2013; Lester & Kehle, 2003; Schoenfeld, 1985, 2008; Silver, 1985). Various scholarly perspectives—including cognitive and behavioral science, neuroscience, the discipline of mathematics, educational philosophy, and sociocultural stances—have informed these debates, often generating divergent resolutions. Perhaps due to this uncertainty, educators’ efforts over the years to improve students’ mathematical problem-solving skills have had disappointing results. Qualitative and quantitative studies consistently reveal mathematics students’ struggles to solve problems more significant than routine exercises (OECD, 2014; Boaler, 2009)...
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