ISA math teacher, John McCrann, has been blogging for EdWeek this year. His blog, Prove It: Math and Education Policy has received a great deal of positive review. In particular, his post “A Strategy for Moving Through Math Anxiety: Maze Moments” has been repeatedly shared and quoted in math education circles.
Here is an excerpt.
Real problem solving is inherently messy. Our culture, however, attempts to smooth the rough edges of life. We Google a question and the answer pops up. We are accustomed to easily accessing results so uncertainty and messiness often lead to anxiety.
There are times when this is not the case. There are activities where you expect and enjoy the feeling of getting stuck. For John Young, the maze was this kind of situation: “Something that my students could relate to, something where they had already had the experience of problem solving, but didn’t see it that way.”
Try something. See that it fails. Re-evaluate. Try something new. Repeat until successful. That’s problem solving: whether in a maze, math class, science experiment, or relationship.
The power of the “Maze Moments” language is that it explicitly teaches students to anticipate being stuck from time to time in the problem solving process. Naming and normalizing this experience supports all students’ ability to think critically and creatively in math.