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Help to introduce meaningful
problem solving in our schools.

Computer word processors are widely used for writing. Surprisingly, problem solving continues to be done using paper and pencil.

Word Problems

A word problem requests a result subject to various conditions that must be simultaneously satisfied. Solution of a word problem then consists of solving a set of simultaneous equations. This is the "problem to find" described by Polya (See: How To Solve It , G. Polya, Princeton University Press, 1945). The methods of solving simultaneous equation is quite well established. The definitive work was done by Leibnitz (1646-1716). If the number of equations is small, less than four or five for example, a simple and convenient process is solving by the process of elimination.

Word problems are frequently used in courses for the purpose of exercising in the subject matter of the course and exercise in using mathematical tools. Many practical every day problems are word problems.

Solving word problems is a simple, straightforward process. It is the communication of the solution effectively to one's self and others which is challenging. Mathematics provides a language through which the communication can be done. There is an urgent need to include mathematics and problems solving in the pre-college curriculum.

It is widely asserted that problem solving and using mathematics require quite different logical processes than are used in other endeavors. This fallacy is the principle cause of the perceived difficulty of mathematics and problem solving. This false perception is a cultural thing that is propagated from generation to generation. Introduction of problem solving in pre-college education, particularly in mathematics, could help rectify this situation. Current (1998) problem solving teaching materials do not address problem solving in a meaningful manner. These page provide the needed problem solving resources.

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Copyright 1995 Howard C. McAllister