Characteristics of Problem Solvers (page 2)
Interesting research has been conducted on the characteristics of excellent and poor problem solvers. Most of this research does not specifically address individuals with disabilities but helps illuminate the many facets of problem-solving ability.
Others have studied poor and novice problem solvers and found virtually the reverse characteristics (Havertape & Kass, 1978; Montague & Bos, 1986; Montague & Applegate, 1993; Parmar, Cawley, & Frazita, 1996; Lucangeli, Coi, & Bosco, 1997). These students:
- don’t spend time analyzing and understanding problems
- decide on a strategy to try too quickly
- rely on a trial-and-error approach
- switch strategies too impulsively
- have gaps in knowledge base and make more computational and procedural errors
- lack metacognitive awareness and strategies
- have difficulty representing problems (linguistically or graphically)
- don’t see patterns or familiar aspects of problems
- have difficulty generalizing
- have problems sorting the information provided
These traits of poor problem solvers can be linked directly to the learner characteristics. Students with disabilities and other learning problems may have gaps in prior knowledge, often have comprehension problems, tend to have immature habits such as guessing or switching strategies without thinking, lack solid cognitive strategies, and don’t generalize from experiences automatically. These students will need more explicit problem-solving instruction in the strategies good problem solvers use. Each phase of the problem-solving sequence will need repeated instruction using many types of problems. This problem-solving instruction should be closely aligned with mathematics content instruction and build deeper concepts and skills across grade levels.
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