This last year, I was fortunate enough to be apart of cohort through UT. After reading some more of the books, our professor gave us I started thinking problem solving, brain storm, and more.

As an adult facing a problem, I don’t tend to generate a list of possible solutions. Through experience (and trial and error) I’ve learned what to do when various types of problems arise. But often times I forget that my students most likely won’t face problems that are not immediately solved for them by older siblings, electronics, or parents. (And yes, sometimes by myself, guilty!)

Students need to spend time generating ideas about how to solve problems of many varieties. Brainstorming establishes connections between ideas and methods to solve problems. These connections will help build up your students’ mental tool box. And the more tools your students have, the more likely they are to be successful in any given problem solving situation.

Brainstorming in Math-

Before beginning a word problem, have your students list all the possible ways to solve it. Don’t reject any ideas, even if they are blatantly wrong. Next, sort them into Good Ideas, Better Ideas, and Best Ideas.

Allow students time to verbalize or write (either whole or small groups) their justifications for the placement of each strategy. Practicing this several times a week will help your students remember and connect the skills they have already learned. It will also help them analyze mathematical process on a deeper level. It may spark an interesting debate even.

Example;

Mrs. O has 24 students in her class. She wants each student to have 64 cubes for the math lesson today. If she has 1,500 cubes, will she have enough cubes for each student?

Strategies to solve this:

Repeated Addition Multiplication Make a T Chart Draw a Picture Subtract Divide

Examples of thinking: (Yes, you will have to model it for them often.)

* I would put adding into the better ideas. I would not put it into the best ideas because I don’t want to add 64 twenty- four times. It would be faster to multiply.

*Or, I would put drawing a picture in the better ideas because drawing base 10 blocks twenty four times is going to take too long.

*We probably wouldn’t want to divide because the problem is not asking us to share 64 things between the 24 students.

Brainstorming in Science

Cause and Effect-

Pose a problem and let students brainstorm a list of possible causes. (My plant died. What do you think happened to it? A certain type of animal disappeared from this region, why do you think that is?) Yes, you might hear that aliens abducted your cows. Allowing the creative responses every now and then is okay (and dare I say healthy for your classroom).

Later, when your students sort the ideas Good, Better, and Best, your students will know that aliens did not steal the cows. J And use your judgment. If you know the class would take that response and run the wrong the direction with this exercise then don’t do whole group. Instead, allow them to generate the list in groups. Limit each group to one creative answer and two logical causes per group. They’ll regulate themselves. J

Mystery Matter or Vocabulary-

Brainstorm a list of question to ask about something in a bag or a hidden vocabulary word. Next, give them a clue. Let them answer or discard their own questions. Finally, have them make a final guess and reveal the mystery. (My students love this!)

Part of the Whole-

Show a part of a picture or article. Allow students to generate a list of questions. What does a word mean? Why does it have this? Will we be studying something to do with plants?

Once a student asks a question fairly close to the content, encourage more questions along those same lines. Keep these questions until after you finished the unit or reading the article. Finally have the students answer their own questions.

Okay, there you have it. Do you use brainstorming in Math or Science?

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