Review: Problem-solving in Mathematics (Prim-Ed)

As a fan of facilitating higher-order thinking skills, I always get very worried when a textbook comes out with “Problem-solving” in the title. Problem-solving is one thinking skill that is misunderstood by many people. Although all teachers know that it’s really important, many don’t actually know what it means. I’ve often heard them described as the word problems at the end of a maths chapter. I’ve often seen them being “translated” into maths sentences, rather than actually doing any problem-solving at all. So, it was with a sense of relief that I picked up Prim-Ed’s mathematical problem-solving book to see that it does recognise key skills in problem solving.

Relevance to curriculum aims: 5/5

Although adapted from the UK curriculum, this set of 7 books (from Senior Infants upwards), is probably more relavent to the Irish curriculum that any other Irish curriculum-specific book on the market. The Irish curriculum recognises problem-solving as a key element of mathematics, yet I haven’t seen a mathematics book, which goes into enough detail of how to problem solve.

Prim-Ed’s book uses a cyclical three-step procedure to problem solve: Analyse the Problem, Explore a means to a solution and Try a solution strategy. What most books forget is the analysis section so this is very good. I was also happy to see that the examples given by the book were very good. Drawing pictures and diagrams, analysing relationships between numbers and looking for patterns are all encouraged. I like the fact that the model is cyclical so that if something doesn’t work, (or if there’s another way to do things), we can start the procedure again.

Teacher usability: 4/5

Like most of Prim-Ed’s offerings, the use of photocopiable pages makes life for the busy teacher easy. Lessons are generally two pages in length. The first page outlines the whole lesson for the teacher and the second page is the photocopiable sheet. I suppose in this day and age, an electronic version of the page would be great for Interactive Whiteboards, and I can assume that will happen in a future version.

Value for money: 4/5

At €18.95 per book, this is a reasonable investment for a whole school for around €130. Perhaps some form of discount for buying all 7 books would make this even more attractive. This series is not going to cover the full mathematics curriculum either so other materials would be needed. However, having said all this, as a once-off purchase, this is well worth the price.

Extras: 0/5

There aren’t any extras with this programme. An electronic version of the worksheets would be a welcome addition. Perhaps, Prim-Ed could form a “relationship” with someone who develops Interactive Whiteboard flipcharts to enhance this series even further. It might be something that could go on their yTeach platform.

Overall, these books will form a good base in our school for mathematical problem-solving. We will probably have to develop our own flipcharts to enhance it right now or utilise a visualiser as we’re trying to cut down on photocopying. The content of this programme is super, however, and I would recommend it to anyone.

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