Problem Solved! How do you face an unfamiliar problem?

Friday 12th July 2019

Alexandra Hewitt, AC for Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire & Hazel Santineer, AC for Brighton & Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex

As a teacher, you probably enjoy the challenge of an unfamiliar problem – but what about your students?

I try not to work through problems before I give them to my students so that I’m not tempted to tell them what to do! Instead, I talk through the thinking process with them and help them decide on a suitable strategy to try. You can find some problems to play with over the summer, such as the sample materials and past paper worked solutions for STEP available from MEI.

Students and teachers descended on The Misbourne School on 4th July for a day of problem solving, looking at key problem solving techniques, collecting a ‘problem solving bag of tricks’, working as a group and creating their own questions.

On the same day, other Year 12 students attended a Higher Level Problem Solving conference at Portsmouth University, enjoying the challenge of solving unfamiliar problems along with information on university admissions tests. Crucially, admissions tests are no longer just for elite universities. Many universities have signalled that they are keen for students to work beyond A level, and encourage this by giving lower offers to students taking such tests. The list includes Bath, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Imperial College, Lancaster, London School of Economics, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and Warwick, with more joining each year.

Have you got your head around the different tests that various universities require? Previously, the main tests were the MAT and STEP, but now the Test of Mathematics for University Admissions (TMUA) has arrived, with quirky and interesting questions aimed at a much wider range of students. Students should check the requirements and recommendations for the specific courses they are applying for, but working towards any of these exams helps to ease the transition into university study.

The AMSP offers support for both students and teachers, covering a wide range of problem solving contexts. Next term, Problem Solving with C grade candidates, a half-day CPD session, will run at Wheatley Park School, Holton, Oxford on Tuesday 19 November. There is also a CPD day in Burgess Hill in October on supporting your students with STEP.

Student/teacher conferences and regular workshops for students run in various venues during the year. We run CPD days on University Admissions Tests, and online support includes the new On Demand Professional Development courses – one on STEP and one on the MAT and TMUA. Look out for information on local courses from your Area Coordinator, or explore our Events page.

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