Acting Head of Mathematics

Mathematics through problem solving

A major part of our teaching strategy in the Mathematics Department at Loreto involves the use of problem solving. So what are the benefits of problem solving for students and how is this in action at Loreto?

Problem solving is a way of developing logical thinking. Individuals can no longer function optimally in society by just knowing the rules to follow to obtain a correct answer. They also need to be able to decide, through a process of logical deduction, what algorithm, if any, a situation requires. Problem solving is a skill in itself, a way of thinking.

This term Year 7 were involved in a Maths Day Incursion. The girls enjoyed participating in the World of Maths, a travelling show with hands-on, mathematical, problem-solving activities, coding activities using the Hour of Code website, problem-solving relays and designing spreadsheets.

In Term One Year 8 Integrated Learning and Mathematics partnered together and participated in an Inquisitive Minds Workshop. The students were immersed in mathematical and logical thinking in a fun and fast-paced session full of problem-solving.

A problem solving approach can provide a way for students to construct their own ideas about mathematics and to take responsibility for their learning. Problem solving encourages students to refine and build on their own processes over a period of time, discarding ideas and becoming aware of new possibilities, developing new knowledge and using mathematical thinking as a tool for daily living.

All Year 9 students during the year will be involved in their own investigation. The A – C classes are currently working on their investigations exploring mathematics in a diverse range of areas including the Truth behind Fairytales, filling the Egyptian pyramids with jelly, how much would it cost to hire a mum for a day, and surfing the perfect wave.

Approaching mathematics through problem solving can create a context which simulates real life and as we all know Mathematics is a powerful tool with many applications.  Mathematics is the M in STEM which pervades every part of our lives. Science and Mathematics is everywhere in the world around us. Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives.

Year 7 Integrated Learning and Mathematics partnered together this term with the students spending time completing ‘Stem in a bag’ activities. Lots of excitement was heard from the DRC and GBC with girls using their problem solving skills in very inventive ways.

Finally, problem solving allows the student to experience a range of emotions associated with various stages in the solution process. Mathematicians who successfully solve problems say that the experience of having done so contributes to an appreciation for the ‘power and beauty of mathematics’ (NCTM, 1989, p.77).

Problem solving brings out the elegance of Mathematics providing many ‘WOW’ moments in class.

Our Year 12 girls are nearing the end of their Mathematics courses and I am sure there have been many moments when Mathematics problems have been challenging but risks have been taken and problems have been solved. This has hopefully resulted in a sense of achievement and led to a love of learning, a love of challenge and an ability to thrive on obstacles, all of which shall help in many areas of their future lives.


Mrs Roslyn Halmy

Acting Head of Mathematics