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Empowering young minds through Powerful Problem-Solving

Lighthouse Maths 2024 Coach Carly Foote discusses the importance of reasoning skills for children when learning maths.

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Picture a child facing a maths problem. The child is puzzled and unsure where to begin. There are a multitude of facets to problem solving in mathematics. It’s not just about finding the right answer; it’s about navigating through the puzzle, uncovering patterns, and making logical connections. This is where reasoning steps in—a superhero of sorts, equipped with the power to unravel mysteries and conquer challenges.  

Mathematics—the very word can evoke a mix of excitement or anxiety. Yet, amidst the numbers and formulas lies a journey of discovery, where reasoning serves as the guiding star illuminating the path to understanding. The Australian curriculum states, “Students are reasoning mathematically when they explain their thinking, when they deduce and justify strategies used and conclusions reached, when they adapt the known to the unknown, when they transfer learning from one context to another, when they prove that something is true or false, and when they compare and contrast related ideas and explain their choices.” Scitech’s Lighthouse Maths program uses a Powerful ProblemSolving (PPS) approach and a carefully constructed lesson design process to transform this journey into an adventure of brilliance and empowerment for children everywhere. This process recognises the importance of reasoning skills in childhood mathematics and encourages the development of these skills through challenging tasks.  

Reasoning in mathematics is like a toolbox filled with tools for problem-solving, critical thinking, and understanding. It is not about memorising formulas, it’s about understanding why those formulas work and how they can be applied in different situations. This is where Lighthouse Maths shines—it’s not just about teaching maths, it’s about empowering children to think, explore, and reason like mathematicians.

In 2023 teachers shared their reflections on Lighthouse Maths: 

“A Powerful Problem-Solving lesson ends with the students coming together to share their process with the other groups. This focus on the journey to the answer, rather than the answer itself, has been a highlight of the program.” Hollywood Primary School Teacher Ryan Shaw said. 

“It has allowed a wide selection of my students to have their moment in the spotlight. I am able to select students who usually don’t perceive themselves as ‘mathematicians’. They then explain to the class their mathematical understanding or strategy, which has had a lasting impact on their sense of self.”   

Brookman Primary School Teacher Tegan Parry wrote, “I sometimes refer to these powerful teacher-student conversations as tennis matches where questions and answers are volleyed back and forth, moving thinking forward. This type of learning and reasoning is deeply embedded in Lighthouse Maths. I use questions like: Is this always true? What conjectures can you make? How can you prove it?”  

Let’s break it down: why does reasoning matter in maths? Well, for starters, it’s the key to unlocking the mysteries of numbers and shapes. When children learn to reason they don’t just solve problems, they understand them. They see the connections between different concepts and can apply their knowledge in new and unfamiliar situations. It’s like giving them a map to navigate the mathematical world—a map that leads to confidence, curiosity, and creativity. This is where the magic of PPS comes into play. Imagine a classroom buzzing with excitement as children dive into hands-on activities, exploring mathematical concepts through play and experimentation. That’s the beauty of Scitech’s program—it’s not just about lectures and worksheets, it’s about learning through first-hand experience.

Lighthouse Maths and the PPS approach promotes collaborative problem-solving, providing opportunities for children to work together, share ideas, and construct meaning collaboratively. By engaging in dialogue and debate, children learn to articulate their reasoning processes, justify their conclusions, and consider alternative perspectives—a hallmark of effective mathematical reasoning. As a Lighthouse Maths Coach, it has been exciting to witness the transformation of children who are increasingly willing to take risks and attempt problems which they would be unlikely to tackle in a traditional “chalk and talk” type maths lesson. With Lighthouse Maths, children can embark on a journey of discovery like never before within the safety of a small group with clear engagement norms and values.  

Earlier this year, Lighthouse Maths Co-ordinator Emily Grainger wrote an article for The West Australian, stating, “Humans are born sense makers and we are innately driven to find patterns in our world. Maths creates a language for making sense of our world. Reasoning is an integral part of students developing deeper understanding of the subject, so our focus at Scitech is fostering connections between concepts through collaboratively solving challenging tasks.”   

The importance of reasoning skills in childhood mathematics cannot be overstated. It’s the cornerstone of understanding, the key to unlocking the mysteries of the mathematical world and life beyond education and into the everchanging world. So, let’s embrace the power of reasoning, ignite the spark of curiosity and unleash the brilliance within every child. With Scitech’s program guiding the way, the possibilities are endless. 

Carley Foote 

Lighthouse Mathematics Coach 2023 & 2024 

Lighthouse Maths is a year-long professional learning program delivered in partnership with Chevron Australia, which aims to build teachers’ skills and confidence by using a problem-solving approach to teaching maths. 

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