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Are you the hero of problem solving?

Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

by Hoover Herrera
Singapore Math® expert

There are some pretty tough math problems out there.  Math problems come in many forms.  There are math problems that can make students feel like they need a superhero to conquer them.  Some math problems come disguised as one-step problems when in reality they are multi-step.  Some word problems use words that no other English speaking person seems to use or the verbs and adjectives in the problem are in the wrong place.  Some problems involve those intimidating fractions and sometimes even their ugly cousins, the mixed numbers.  The worst are those problems that seem innocent when in fact they are not!  And whose idea was it to include fractions, decimals and ratios all in one math problem?!

Are you a hero
Students don’t need a superhero to fight their battles for them because they can be their own heroes of problem solving.  Recently, the CEO of Marshall Cavendish Education, the Director of Marshall Cavendish Education US and I had the privilege of visiting a third grade class using Math In Focus® Singapore Math® at the Ridge Road School of the North Haven Public Schools and we saw not one, but many superheroes of problem solving in action.  Led by superhero teacher Ms. JoAnn McLane and donned in her powerful blue cape, students without fear confronted some fierce looking problems.  Armed with strategies and creativity, students devised plans, used those plans to solve and then checked to see if their mission had been accomplished.  Then they went on confidently creating their own fierce looking problems.

All students believe and have confidence that their teachers can solve all of the math problems but it is quite another thing when a teacher convinces her students that they too have the power to solve problems, even big scary ones.  “Who thinks they can be the superhero of problem solving today?” asked Ms. McLane.  We witnessed every little hand lift up high to the sky not because they had to but because they were confident and fearless.  That’s quite an impressive attitude and confidence considering the math problems students are confronted with each day.  A quote from a website I often frequent stated “For some, it may be that their confidence has been severely dented by someone who taught them maths [sic] in a forceful or unsympathetic manner, so that they came to believe that they were ‘no good at math’” (Fewings, 2011)1.”  Thank goodness for hero teachers like Ms. McLane who is developing confident heroes of problem solving everyday.

As educators, we can certainly teach students math content, help them to develop skills, how to use strategies, and even how to think, AND we should continue to do so, but helping students to become their own heroes of problem solving full of confidence to confront tough math problems is one of our strongest superpowers that we need to continue developing as educators.

We’d love to hear about your experiences in the classroom.  Be sure to leave a comment back at our LinkedIn Singapore Math community.  Who are the hero teachers in your school?  Share with us the amazing powers your students have demonstrated.  Tell us a story about your own confident superheroes of problem solving.


John Fewings, retired innovative educator.  Impressive resource at (accessed on November 25, 2015)