# BLOGS WEBSITE

# TAG: problem-solving

#### The Solving Problems Poster

This blog post is about the Solving Problems poster that has been on the MLC wall for more than ten years in one form or another. The most current version of it in handout form is this:

You can download this handout in PDF form here.

I’ve been meaning to blog about it for some time, but […]

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#### Twelve matchsticks: focus or funnel

One of my favourite puzzles is the Twelve Matchsticks puzzle. It goes like this:

Twelve matchsticks can be laid on the table to produce a variety of shapes. If the length of a matchstick is 1 unit, then the area of each shape can be found in square units. For example, these shapes have areas 6, […]

#### Context fatigue

Context fatigue is a particular kind of mental exhaustion that happens after having to make sense of multiple different contexts that maths/statistics is embedded in. I feel it regularly, but I feel it most strongly when I have spent a day helping medical students critically analyse the statistics presented in published journal articles.

The problem with maths […]

#### Trying maths live on Twitter

Once upon a time, I decided I would be vulnerable on Twitter. As part of that, when someone posted a puzzle that I was interested in, I decided that I would not wait until I had a complete answer to a problem before I responded, but instead I would tweet out my partial thinking. If […]

#### Really working together

Yesterday, I had one of those experiences in the MLC that makes me love my job.

The Maths 1B students were working on a linear algebra proof today, and as I came up to one of the tables, Fred (name changed) was explaining the beginning of his proof to the rest of the table. When I […]

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#### A story instead of stars and bars

In a recent post (Counting the Story), I talked about how if you look closely at most solutions of combinatorics problems, you’ll see that they actually count the story of constructing the object rather than the object itself.

One exception to this is a problem like this:

“The balloon man has a huge collection of balloons in […]

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#### Inspiration, not instructions

We have a big problem-solving poster on the MLC wall that gives students advice for solving problems. One of those pieces of advice is that to decide what to do for your current problem, you could look at other problems for inspiration. Yesterday I saw the dangerous results of what happens if you look at […]

#### There is no such thing as “just a quick question”

We often get students in the MLC saying that they have “just a quick question”: “Finally you’re up to me – it seems like a long time to wait when it’s just a quick question…”; “I know it’s 4:05 and the Centre closed five minutes ago, but it’s just a quick question…”; “I’m sorry to […]

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#### Assignments don’t teach people

It is a well-known truth that assessment drives learning. Students will often not learn a particular topic or concept unless it is assessed by an assignment or exam. Fair enough — often students are not choosing to do a particular course for the sheer love of it, are they?

However, many lecturers take this truth just […]

#### You will never see this problem again

“Now you understand that you’ll never see this problem again, don’t you?” I said, after a particularly productive problem-solving session at the MLC whiteboard with a group of students.

And then the world ended.

At least, I would have gotten the same reaction from the students if it had. They were all staring at me with wild […]