Kids these days often start school with the basics of reading, writing and maths well and truly under their belt. They are also techno wizzes, usually having a better grasp of technology than many adults. But how has this happened? Is it our healthier lifestyles, access to modern medicines  or early childhood education? I’d say it’s a combination of everything and more.

To my mind one of the big factors in primary school kids being super switched on today comes down to the amazing access to virtually unlimited resources today. With the advent of the internet, has come easy online information sourcing and access to excellent maths resources and fun ideas for maths activities. Think about it as moving from what was once available in the local library to accessing book shelves that extend forever around the world.

A large part of today’s kids intelligence is also due to the way subjects are taught at schools. There has been a seismic shift away from rote learning and memorisation to more problem based learning. This particularly relates to maths teaching plans and the way kids are taught to develop strong addition mental strategies and multiplication mental strategies to be able to work on maths problem solving autonomously. If you are a teacher looking for new ideas for your maths lesson plans, look no further than alearningplaceateachingplace for a host of great resources and instructional videos. Search by concept or by grade to make your lessons fun and engaging and have the kids getting a deep understanding.

We are also valuing the contribution of children more these days. Gone are the days where kids should not speak unless spoken to. Children in most parts of the world are today free to do pretty much whatever they set their minds to as parents and teachers encourage them to pursue their dreams whatever they may be.

As teachers we can all sometimes run out of ideas on how to keep our students engaged and motivated. I have incorporated using some of the great unsolved maths problems into my maths lesson plans with excellent results. I’ll discuss some of the benefits for students in this article.

A good way to introduce such maths problems is to give the problem to the class but not tell them that it is actually unsolvable until they have been working on it for around ten minutes. This creates a change in the students perspective, as what was seemingly a straight forward problem in arithmetic turns into being basically unsolvable, thereby questioning the very basis of maths problem solving concepts they have previously relied on.

Using unsolved maths problems has the effect of allowing students to let themselves break free somewhat of the commonly held notion that there is a “right” and “wrong” answer to everything, and indeed raises the question in their minds – does there need to be a correct answer at all? In my opinion, if the right and wrong answer idea is forced upon students, it inhibits them from developing their own addition mental strategies and to gain a deep understanding of maths concepts.

Furthermore, working on unsolved maths problems allows a student to relax, engage with the problem at hand without the pressure of needing to find the correct answer. This focuses the student’s subtraction mental strategies and lets them explore different maths problem solving techniques and key core concepts. Failure, is for want of a better word, expected and normal with success not coming in the form of finding the correct answer but rather in the depth of investigation done by the student. For the most part all my students love working on these problems. Hopefully, some of these problems stay unsolved for very long time.

Everything you need to know about maths education for your child.