The purpose of this activity is for you to become more comfortable with using Polya’s problem-solving method by applying it to an actual decision that you are facing, or have recently faced, in your life. The more comfortable you are with using Polya’s method, the better you will be able to recognize situations where you can introduce the method to students.
- Think of a problem that you are currently facing. It does not have to be a problem involving math—in fact, it’s preferable that you choose a problem unrelated to math. It might be a problem involving your career, your relationships, your finances, or your lifestyle.
- Using the chart of Polya’s problem-solving method provided in the Tool for the Field in this unit, work through the steps of the problem. When you reach Step 3 (execute the plan), you may want to actually execute the plan you came up with in Step 2, or you may prefer to just imagine executing the plan. In either case, proceed to Step 4 and reflect on what happened (or on what you think would have happened).
- Reflect on the process. In what ways did using Polya’s method for solving the problem differ from how you typically handle problems such as the one you chose for this activity? In what ways was it similar? Which of Polya’s four steps do you think you are least likely to do when handling problems in your life? What do you think would be the effect of consciously trying to implement this least-used step in handling problems?