Problem Solving in Mathematics

Investigating Problem Solving in Mathematics by pre-service teachers

Abstract: There is a strong emphasis on problem-solving in the new Project Maths syllabus. In each of the five strands, it is stated that students should be able to ‘explore patterns and formulate conjectures, explain findings and justify conclusions and to apply knowledge and skills to solve problems in familiar and unfamiliar contexts’.

Initial reviews by the pilot schools who engaged with Project Maths revealed a potential problem with both the confidence levels in problem solving among teachers and students and also, the time available for problem solving.

This project is aimed at investigating and improving how pre-service teachers approach solving problems which are unfamiliar to them.

Research on the factors affecting students’ ability to engage in problem solving and to gain the required synthesis and problem solving skills has been conducted, as well as research on instructional practices in Mathematics education. This informed the formulation of a model for teaching problem solving.

The objectives are:

  1. To promote mathematics as a science of patterns, order and connections, which relies on logic, while also employing observation and experimentation.
  2. To promote mathematics knowledge for teaching.
  3. To develop a model for teaching and assessing problem solving in mathematics (based on current literature and re-iterated to account for any significant findings from the assessment)
  4. To design an intervention, using the model developed for teaching and assessing problem solving to improve pre-service teachers' ability in approaching problem solving tasks in mathematics.
  5. To evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention and the model at improving pre-service teachers' performance in problem solving.


Researcher: Aoife Guerin
Commencement Date: Aug 2013
End Date: Aug 2017