Problem-solving skills are important in all aspects of learning and in life. It is important to remember not to rush children to learn concepts until they are developmentally ready. Challenge students, but if they become frustrated, go at a slower pace.

One important problem-solving skill is classification of objects. Children begin by learning single attributes of objects like the color, size and shape. During the first phase of instruction, children should be taught the necessary vocabulary, given or shown examples of objects with the attribute and asked to point to or select objects with the given attribute. Classifying objects helps children understand concepts.

Large circles may be drawn on a large piece of paper to represent sets of objects. Yarn or string also may be used to create circles for sets. Children may group objects according to color, such as placing red objects in one circle (set), blue objects in a second circle (set), etc. They may group objects according to size, such as placing large objects in one set and small objects in a second set. Once children have mastered classifying objects by single attributes, they may be ready to classify objects by two attributes.

To classify objects according to two attributes, two large circles are needed to represent sets. Choose two different attributes, such as “red” and “square.” Ask the child to place red objects in one set and square objects in the second set. Children are able to recognize two attributes of an object when they realize the red squares can be placed in either set.

If the child places a red square in the set designated for red objects, ask the child, “Why did you put this object (the red square) in this set? Should it go in the other set?” If the child does not understand that the red square may be placed in either set, the child may not be ready to identify objects by two attributes.

If the child does understand that the red square may be placed in either set, draw or create two circles that overlap or intersect in one section. There should be three sections: a section for red objects that are not squares, such as red circles, etc.; the intersecting section for the red squares; and a third section for the squares that are not red, such as yellow squares, etc. Once the child has mastered identifying objects by two attributes, they may progress to classification of objects according to three attributes.

Estella De Los Santos is a professor of mathematics in the School of Education, Health Professions and Human Development at the University of Houston-

Victoria.

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