Recognizing Patterns in Problem Solving

I am currently a math tutor. I love my job because I get to help children find that they actually can do math.

Part of what we try to teach these students in the center is how to identify situations where math skills are needed, and then to recognize which tools in their math arsenal will help them solve the problem.

I am also a huge fan of pencil puzzle games like this one. I was attempting this one, and quickly realized it’s essentially a variant of the Magic Square. The moment I recognized the problem, it took virtually nothing to solve it. It almost took away a bit of the thrill of solving the puzzle.

While it is a good idea to teach children to think like this, to work to recognize quickly so they can solve and move on, I almost wonder if it takes out some of the fun of exploring the problem. By arming students with the ability to resolve a problem quickly, are we robbing them of the opportunity to explore the problem and perhaps find another, cleaner way to approach the problem?

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