Select Page

A story problem is like a road in pitch darkness. Any clue that you get is well worth the dim light, as it increases your chances of finding your way out. You as a learner may find yourself dropped in the ocean forced to find some treasure and heaven knows why. Looking at story problems in this manner is different from looking at the basis of solving problems. Learners must therefore be encouraged to ask why they need to solve story problems at all. For example; a student named John may discover a solution to a problem and it may be called the beginner’s luck.

A trained tutor knows that there is a scientific process behind John’s discovery of a solution. He may not be able to articulate it because he may not be looking at the story at all! What probably strikes him is the elusiveness of a solution and his mind may use the imagery called ‘treasure’. The mathematical solution is substituted with hidden treasure. This excites him and he is able to then extract clues from the phrases employed by the story problem. This way of looking at a problem is subjective if John’s imagery s taken literally. There are two lines of thought operating simultaneously in John’s mind. They travel faster than the speed of light from his point of view and he may find the solution opening up before even working out the steps.

Let us look at John’s scenario from the tutor’s perspective. A trained tutor would know that there is an underlying imagery operating in John’s approach. This imagery is what excites him. It is this imagery that a tutor needs to identify to cater to John in the future. Identifying a stimulating imagery in a student takes a certain amount of understanding of a learner’s mind. It is not to be thought of as an incentive based approach to problem solving. It is far from it. In technology enabled tutoring such as online tutoring, the understanding that a tutor needs to achieve comes from devoting individual attention. This fact runs contrary to the theory that group learning is necessarily the best form of learning. The belief that supports group learning is that students learn more effectively with their peers as reinforcement happens on a regular basis in a class. While this view has its justification, it sidelines learners who benefit from inspiration that arises out of individual attention. Identifying the secret imagery from the tutor’s perspective is solving a story problem of a cognitive kind and enabling the learner to solve a Mathematical problem is quite a treasure for both.