Problem solving and mathematics: Promoting cognitive dissonance

Engaging Maths

A couple of weeks ago I came across the term ‘cognitive dissonance’ in relation to teaching and learning mathematics and I have been thinking about it ever since. It reminded me of something a colleague of mine talks about with his primary class – the idea of getting a ‘sweaty brain’ when something is challenging or difficult during maths lessons. It’s that uncomfortable feeling you get, that feeling of disequilibrium, when you’re grappling to learn something new – something that is slightly out of reach.

Do you celebrate cognitive dissonance or ‘sweaty brains’ in your classroom? I think this is something that we have to promote – we need our students to value the struggle that takes place as part of the learning process and particularly when we engage in the problem solving process. Problem solving is a central part of the mathematics curriculum, and explicitly listed as one of…

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