Problem Solving: Reasoning
Problem Solving can often become a problem itself if you don’t have the right tools. This is why we are going over a wide range of the different skills that are necessary for problem solving throughout the month of March! Our goal is to help our community build the proper toolbox of skills to use when addressing an issue. Make sure to check out our previous posts from this month, “Critical Thinking” and “Problem-Solving: Adapting,” at www.mpama.com/blog.
This week, we will be discussing how to use Reasoning to aid in the problem solving process, so let’s get right into it!
Reasoning refers to our ability to combine prior knowledge, observable context clues, and logic to draw a conclusion or make a prediction. It is important to combine all 3 sources of information during this process, because each will offer a unique lens to view the problem through. Prior knowledge helps to frame the current circumstances and identify any reappearing patterns to help make a prediction about what might happen. Context clues help us focus and filter all the information based on events that are currently taking place. And finally, logic helps us refine your predictions and conclusions based on principles and facts. Adding these all together provides us with a wealth of data and key information to draw upon when creating solutions.
Using reasoning to assist with problem solving is a 3-step process, and is quite similar to the Scientific Method, which you may have learned about in school! The Scientific Method covers every step of the process from drafting a hypothesis to refining the conclusions of the observations. Reasoning is a bit more streamlined, but follows a similar flow. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Predict
The first step in the reasoning process is to predict. The prediction is your hypothesis, which means it is a guess about what is going to happen. Right off the bat, predicting requires you to use all 3 areas of information we discussed earlier. Prior knowledge is the strongest data to use here, because observations from previous, similar situations will help you visualize where the current one might go. Current context clues will allow you to refine possible outcomes by looking into what might be different from past experiences. Finally, logic will help you validate your reasoning by applying basic principles and facts to your prediction. Based on this initial assessment, what do you think might happen? Why do you think that might happen? What do you need to do in order to make that happen? These are great questions to ask yourself to get the ball rolling. Remember, predicting isn’t just making a guess, it means implementing your “hypothesis” to see if it will actually solve your problem.
Step 2: Explain
Once you’ve made and tried out your prediction, it’s time to explain what happened. This step is equivalent to the observing step of the Scientific Method. After trying out your initial prediction, reflect on how well it worked. Was your prediction accurate? If so, why was it accurate? If not, what did not work as you expected it to, and why? What happened as a result of your prediction? This step heavily involves knowledge of context clues, as you need to observe what is happening as it is happening in order to answer these questions. Whether the prediction worked or not, the most important part of this step is to get to the Why. Why did your prediction work or not work? Finding the Why allows you to use logic to explain what happened. Once you know why your prediction did or didn’t solve the problem, then you can move on to the final step.
Step 3: Readjust
The final stage of the reasoning process is to use your collected observations to refine and finalize your predictions. Or, in other words, to make conclusions. If your prediction was correct, then this step involves taking what you learned and implementing it into your life to make sure you don’t run into this problem again. If your prediction was incorrect, then you need to take the Why that you gathered from the previous step, and use that to create a revised and refined prediction and give it another go. Reasoning is a circular process that you can use over and over again until you are able to overcome whatever challenge you are facing. If your initial hypothesis isn’t accurate, use your observations to rework it and try again!
In Our Classes…
In our classes this week, we will be going over the reasoning process, and teaching our students how to use it to solve problems. During our drills and forms work, we will provide them with simple challenges that they can practice using reasoning to overcome. Starting small allows kids to develop the necessary fundamental skills, which can grow from there to be able to solve bigger problems. We will remind our students that reasoning can and should be used to tackle issues everywhere they go in life, whether they are in school, at home, or working their future job. Problem solving is an essential skill that can help everyone throughout life, and reasoning is one of the most important tools in that toolbox. Our goal is to help our students learn and practice how to use reasoning when they come across obstacles in their day-to-day life!
In summary, reasoning is a 3-part system that helps us solve problems logically. Synthesizing our understanding of past events, current context clues, and logic itself will help us see the path forward more clearly. Hopefully that path leads us to a solution that we can implement and keep as part of our routine. However, if it is not successful, we can use our observations to start the cycle over and try again! The beauty of this process is that it is repeatable, and can be used over and over to find the proper solution. It’s just like a play-until-you-win arcade machine! The best part? Each time you try again, you’ll get closer and closer to finding the right solution. Be sure to practice your reasoning skills by utilizing this process!
How else can you use reasoning to solve problems?
What other areas of our lives can reasoning support us in?