Teaching through problem solving may be a goal, but is it a reality? The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM 2000) and the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI 2010) both advocate that reasoning and problem solving are important skills to emphasize in all mathematics classrooms. One way teachers can do so is by selecting tasks that require students to engage in higher-level thinking and apply their mathematical knowledge (NCTM 2014). Then why is it that in many classrooms, students continue to learn mathematics through instruction that teaches rote procedural skills without connecting mathematical concepts? In this article, we address the challenges that may cause elementary school teachers to veer away from consistently integrating problem-solving opportunities into their classrooms.
Nancy Burmeister, firstname.lastname@example.org, teaches fifth grade at Rose Glen Elementary School in Waukesha, Wisconsin. She is interested in creating a risk-free environment for her students and letting students know that learning new concepts takes time and patience.
Rachel Elliott, email@example.com, teaches second-grade mathematics in a twoway dual language classroom at Banting Elementary in Waukesha, Wisconsin. She serves as a math teacher leader and enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for mathematical discourse and problem solving with students and peers.
Liza Weber, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a math instructional coach in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. She focuses her work on helping teachers implement approaches to mathematics that emphasize developing conceptual understanding. She is interested primarily in mathematics education for young learners.
Nadine Whalen, email@example.com, teaches second grade at Jefferson Elementary in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. She is passionate about instilling the love of learning mathematics in her students by giving problem-solving opportunities in which they must persevere, collaborate, and reason.
Christina Sprader, firstname.lastname@example.org, is the Associate Director of the Institute for Personalized Learning in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. Prior to this, she was an administrator, coach, and teacher for the school district of Waukesha. She has a passion for rethinking education that ensures personalized learning for all learners.
Kimberly White, email@example.com, is an associate professor at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. She works with preservice and in-service teachers to facilitate rich mathematical environments that integrate problem solving and reasoning into daily instruction.