2 Oct

Hinting In Problem Solving Challenges

I could use some advice on giving students hints in regards to solving a problem. I am constantly giving students hints on how to solve a problem in order for them to get the concept on their own; however, soemtimes they seem to not be picking up on these hints. So I believe, I must be doing this wrong, and was wondering on the correct method to just give a tip / hint / push for the student to then solve the question by themselves.

First of all, you should be using the self questioning process to prod students along:
What does the question want from you? What do you know about this? What haven’t you used yet? … etc. This kind of prodding is designed to stimulate the student’s thinking process and should help with problem solving process keep from stalling.

Sometimes you obviously need to give actual hints to do with the question/content. If the student is not picking up on the hints you are giving it probably means that the hint isn’t giving them that “aha” moment where they realise what needs to be done. The purpose of giving hints in relation to the actual content/question is that it can help remind the student where they are in the process of solving that type of question. If they are not sufficiently familiar with that type of problem though, this won’t help. If they don’t realise what kind of problem they are solving then how can a hint for what to do next help them?

I appreciate that you are trying to make them figure it out on their own, this is exactly what you should be doing as a tutor. A couple of ideas:.

  • Instil more comprehension in the first place by using techniques like “See one, do one, teach one”. That way you can better gauge when the student is ready to do their own problems.
  • When they get stuck, ask them what they are thinking. What don’t they understand? What do they know about what they’ve done in that question so far? Why did they do those steps? Etc. By developing their awareness of their own comprehension or lack thereof, their thinking skills will improve.
  • Use Transfer Skills to teach how to do the problem.This is the skill of making up a simpler question and then transferring those ideas to a more complex question with which you are having difficulty. Make up a different but very similar, simpler question and work through that with the student. Make sure they understand it. Once you feel confident that they understand have them attempt the original question.
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