When you are helping someone with math, instead of doing the answers for them, it can help to ask the right questions that will stimulate mathematical thinking so that they can work the problems out themselves. This requires patience and time to accomplish, but it is very effective to help students learn to solve problems themselves – even when they aren’t sure at first how to tackle the problem.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
When trying to work out a problem and the child or student is stuck, teachers and tutors can ask these types of questions to help them recall when they practiced this problem before. By doing this, you automatically show them that you have confidence in them to figure it out.
Ask questions like, “Does this remind you of anything?” and, “What happens if you organize the problem differently?” or something like, “In what ways can these be sorted?” This will help give the student a starting point for figure it out.
Ask Strategy-Focused Questions
These questions will flip on the math portion of your child’s brain and yours. Questions about strategy and how to tackle a problem can help lead to solving it.
For example, “What part of this problem is the same?” “Are there more examples in the book or online that you can use?” “What about any patterns; do you see any patterns?” “Do you know what comes next?”
Asks Solution-Focused Questions
These questions will help the student analyze what they learned once they have a solution to the problem. Solutions may be right or wrong to have this conversation. If they are wrong, you can ask the right questions to lead them to a lightbulb moment of realizing it’s wrong and doing it right.
Ask questions like, “What did you discover?” and “Why did you do the problem this way?” “Are you confident your solution is correct? Why?” Answering these questions will help build confidence in the student’s ability to get the problems right and explain how they did it.
Ask Sharing and Comparing Questions
Ask your child or student to compare their answer and the way they did it to another similar problem and solution. And as far as the actual problem goes, ask them why someone might get a different solution than they did and why they would. Plus, maybe there are other possibilities so you may want to ask if this problem brought up new questions for them about similar situations.
It’s a tremendous skill that teachers and tutors have to develop: learning when to step back and ask the right questions that stimulate the right way of thinking about a problem so that the student can find the solution on their own. Once the student starts learning to deal with and find solutions by asking the right questions, there isn’t any problem they cannot eventually solve.