Looking back on Pólya’s teaching of problem solving

This article is a personal reflection on Pólya's work on problem solving, supported by a re-reading of some of his books and viewing his film Let Us Teach Guessing. Pólya's work has had lasting impact on the goals of school mathematics, especially in establishing solving problems (including non-routine problems) as a major goal and in establishing the elements of how to teach for problem solving. His work demonstrated the importance of choosing rich problems for students to explore, equipping them with some heuristic strategies and metacognitive awareness of the problem solving process, and promoting 'looking back' as a way of learning from the problem solving experience. The ideas are all still influential. What has changed most is the nature of classrooms, with the subsequent appreciation of a supporting yet challenging classroom where students work collaboratively and play an active role in classroom discussion.

Subject Classification: 97D50, 97A30

Regula falsi in lower secondary school education II

The aim of this paper is to investigate the pupils' word problem solving strategies in lower secondary school education. Students prior experiences with solving word problems by arithmetic methods can create serious difficulties in the transition from arithmetic to algebra. The arithmetical methods are mainly based on manipulation with numbers. When pupils are faced with the methods of algebra they often have difficulty in formulating algebraic equations to represent the information given in word problems. Their troubles are manifested in the meaning they give to the unknown, their interpretation what an equation is, and the methods they choose to set up and solve equations. Therefore they mainly use arithmetical and numerical checking methods to solve word problems. In this situation it is necessary to introduce alternative methods which make the transition from arithmetic to algebra more smooth. In the following we will give a detailed presentation of the false position method. In our opinion this method is useful in the lower secondary school educational processes, especially to reduce the great number of random trial-and-error problem solving attempts among the lower secondary school pupils. We will also show the results of some problem solving activities among grade 6-8 pupils. We analysed their problem solving strategies and we compared our findings with the results of other research works.

Subject Classification: 97-03, 97-11, 97B10, 97B50, 97D40, 97F10, 97H10, 97H20, 97H30, 97N10, 97N20

Is it possible to develop some elements of metacognition in a Mathematics classroom environment?

In an earlier exploratory survey, we investigated the metacognitive activities of 9th grade students, and found that they have only limited experience in the “looking back” phase of the problem solving process. This paper presents the results of a teaching experiment focusing on ninth-grade students’ metacognitive activities in the process of solving several open-ended geometry problems. We conclude that promoting students’ metacognitive abilities makes their problem solving process more effective.

Subject Classification: 97D50, 97G40

Teaching undergraduate mathematics - a problem solving course for first year

In this paper we describe a problem solving course for first year undergraduate mathematics students who would be future school teachers.

Subject Classification: 97B50, 97B70, 97D50, 97D60, 97F60, 97U30

Programming Theorems and Their Applications

One of the effective methodological approaches in programming that supports the design and development of reliable software is analogy-based programming. Within this framework, the method of problem reduction plays a key role. Reducing a given problem to another one whose solving algorithm is already known can be made more efficient by the application of programming theorems. These represent proven, abstract solutions – in a general form – to some of the most common problems in programming. In this article, we present six fundamental programming theorems as well as pose five sample problems. In solving these problems, all six programming theorems will be applied. In the process of reduction, we will employ a concise specification language. Programming theorems and solutions to the problems will be given using the structogram form. However, we will use pseudocodes as descriptions of algorithms resembling their actual implementation in Python. A functional style solution to one of the problems will also be presented, which is to illustrate that for the implementation in Python, it is sufficient to give the specification of the problem for the design of the solution. The content of the article essentially corresponds to that of the introductory lectures of a course we offered to students enrolled in the Applied Mathematics specialization.

Subject Classification: D40

Solution of an open reality based word-problem in two secondary schools

This survey through an open reality based word problem is intended to assess - in two secondary schools in Komárom (Hungary) and in Komarno (Slovakia, Hungarian name: Révkomárom) in grade 10 - the ability of students to realize openness of a task. The comparison is justified by the fact that the language of teaching is Hungarian in both secondary schools, but with different curricula. This survey is related to the Content Pedagogy Research Program by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. It is preceded by several surveys with a word problem (Pocket Money) of the third author and led by her between 2012 and 2015, and within that project in 2017 within a large sample test, among about 1500 students and university students in Hungary (?, ?) (?, ?). In our research we wanted first to assess how openly work students in two schools of the two cities mentioned in solving the same task. The answer to this question was similar to the large sample test results, so most of the students worked in a closed way, when solving this word problem. So we went on and tried to explore how students thought about their own solution given to this task, through mixed-type interviews.

Subject Classification: 97D70, 97F90, 97D50, 97M10

"How to be well-connected?" An example for instructional process planning with Problem Graphs

Teachers’ design capacity at work is in the focus of didactical research worldwide, and fostering this capacity is unarguably a possible turning point in the conveyance of mathematical knowledge. In Hungary, the tradition hallmarked by Tamás Varga is particularly demanding towards teachers as they are supposed to be able to plan their long-term processes very carefully. In this contribution, an extensive teaching material designed in the spirit of this tradition will be presented from the field of Geometry. For exposing its inner structure, a representational tool, the Problem Graph is introduced. The paper aims to demonstrate that this tool has potential for analyzing existing resources, helping teachers to reflect on their own preparatory and classroom work, and supporting the creation of new designs.

Subject Classification: 97D40, 97D50, 97D80, 97G10, 97U30

Pólya’s influence on (my) research

In this article, I outline the influence of George Pólya's work on research in different areas and especially on mathematics education, namely heuristics and models of the problem-solving process. On a more personal note, I will go into some details regarding Pólya's influence on my own work in mathematical problem solving with a focus on the research project for my PhD thesis.

Subject Classification: 97xxx

Integrating elements of data science into high-school teaching: Naïve Bayes-classification algorithm and programming in Python

Probability theory and mathematical statistics are traditionally one of the most difficult chapters of mathematics to teach. One of the authors, Péter Princz has experience in teaching various topics via computer programming of the problem at hand as a class activity. The proposed method is to involve programming as a didactic tool in hard-to-teach topics. The intended goal in this case is to implement a naïve Bayes-classifier algorithm in Python and demonstrate the machine-learning capabilities of it by applying it to a real-world dataset of edible or poisonous mushrooms. The students would implement the algorithm in a playful and interactive way. The proposed incremental development process aligns well with the spirit of Tamás Varga who considered computers as modern tools of experimental problem solving as early as in the 1960s.

Subject Classification: 97D40, 97D50, 97K50, 97K99, 97M60, 97P40, 97P50, 97U50

Virtual manipulatives in inquiry-based approach of 3D problems by French 5th graders

The aim of this research is to study the appropriation of a 3D environment by learners in an a-didactical situation of problem solving. We try to evaluate the relevance of the virtual 3D environment in the development of students' cognitive and metacognitive abilities. We implanted a problem-solving activity related to a 3D cube situation with an empty part in the cube in different French primary school areas in May 2019. In the experimental group each learner works individually with a PC-computer where the virtual environment ANIPPO is implemented. In the control group the pupils work in a traditional class environment. We present the results of this pre-experimentation.

Subject Classification: 97D50, 97U60, 97U70

Consequences of a virtual encounter with George Pólya

The consequences of a virtual encounter with George Pólya as a teacher are recorded. An instance of his influence on my mathematical thinking is recounted through work on one of the problems in one of his books.

Subject Classification: 01A99, 11A05, 97-03, 97D50

Promoting a meaningful learning of double integrals through routes of digital tasks

Within a wider project aimed at innovating the teaching of mathematics for freshmen, in this study we describe the design and the implementation of two routes of digital tasks aimed at fostering students' approach to double integrals. The tasks are built on a formative assessment frame and classical works on problem solving. They provide facilitative and response-specific feedback and the possibility to request different hints. In this way, students may be guided to the development of well-connected knowledge, operative and decision-making skills. We investigated the effects of the interaction with the digital tasks on the learning of engineering freshmen, by comparing the behaviours of students who worked with the digital tasks (experimental group, N=19) and students who did not (control group, N=19). We detected that students in the experimental group showed more exibility of thinking and obtained better results in the final exam than students in the control group. The results confirmed the effectiveness of the experimental educational path and offered us interesting indications for further studies.

Subject Classification: 97D40, 97U70, 44A45

Rational errors in learning fractions among 5th grade students

Our paper focuses on empirical research in which we map out the errors in learning fractions. Errors are often logically consistent and rule-based rather than being random. When people face solving an unfamiliar problem, they usually construct rules or strategies in order to solve it (Van Lehn, 1983). These strategies tend to be systematic, often make ‘sense’ to the people who created them but often lead to incorrect solutions (Ben-Zeev, 1996). These mistakes were named rational errors by Ben-Zeev (1996). The research aims to show that when learning fractions, students produce such errors, identified in the literature, and that students who make these kinds of mistakes achieve low results in mathematics tests. The research was done among 5th-grade students.

Subject Classification: 97C10, 97C30, 97C70, 97D60, 97D70, 97F50