How to Activate your Mathematical Thinking by Solving Challenging Problems

Creativity and mathematics are not commonly thought of together. But there is more of a connection between the two than you might think. Both mathematics and creativity require fluency, flexibility, novelty, and elaboration. At their roots, they are both about solving complex problems. 

We know that arts and music are important in education. But most of us don’t fully understand why. To simplify it–there is a link between creativity and mathematical competence. Mathematics requires working systematically, visualizing, questioning, explaining, and otherwise proving solutions. As you exercise these skills by solving challenging problems, you build them.


Fundamental Habits of Mathematical Thinking

Learning requires openness. It requires that we develop certain skills that allow our minds to explore new information without bias. Mastering mathematics isn’t just about working math problems. It’s about building the skills behind them.

Mathematical Thinking Requires:

  • Curiosity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Collaboration
  • Resilience

Curious students will dare to question ‘why.’ leading to more discovery and deeper learning than simply accepting information as it is presented. Resourceful students will engage with problems on a deeper level, committing time to careful consideration and becoming better equipped to draw connections between different concepts presented in different contexts.

Collaborative students are great at working with others. And since peer-to-peer learning seems to be the most effective for both parties, this skill sets these students up for success. And resilient students are better equipped to stick with it through challenging problems.

Challenging Problems Activate your Mathematical Thinking

The human mind prefers the path of least resistance. However, growth comes from experiencing challenges. If you want to learn, if you want to master your IB mathematics classes, the key lies in working on challenging problems. While uncomfortable, this experience will provide the opportunity to develop your capacity for mathematical thinking.

What does that mean:

  • Exploring and Noticing Structure
  • Working Systematically
  • Thinking Strategically
  • Posing Questions & Conjecture
  • Visualizing Problems
  • Understanding Mathematical Modelling
  • Understanding of Underlying Concepts
  • Reasoning and Justification

Problem-Solving Skills Start with Mathematics But Serve a Deeper Purpose

Today, we live in an information and technology-based society. In a world where computers can do almost anything, the value of human skill is knowledge-based. The ability to apply knowledge within a context to solve complex problems is an important skill for the future of human talent in the workplace. And a good foundation in mathematics is where problem-solving skills start. 

Working challenging math problems helps students learn:

  • How to combine creativity and logical thinking.
  • How to structure and organize information.
  • How to process information quickly.
  • How to enjoy challenges.
  • How to investigate and understand the world.

The Bottom Line

At first glance, it may not be obvious that there is a connection between creativity and mathematics. However, both skills require the other for fluency. Many students often fail to see the big picture when it comes to working on algebra problems. The practicality of mathematics isn’t about finding the value of x. It’s about developing critical problem-solving skills for the future. Revision Village is a great website to help you hone your math skills.

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