Metacognition and mathematical problem solving

Metacognition is a crucial element in problem-solving, which is itself a key component in mathematics learning. To monitor and regulate one’s cognitive processes in problem-solving, Polya (1945) describes a four-step method: first, one has to comprehend the problem by sub-dividing it into more manageable parts and recognize any given data, conditions and variables to be found; second, one devises or selects a strategy to find the connections between the known data and the unknowns to be found; third, one executes the plan, scanning, regulating and examining each step; and, finally, after obtaining the solution, one evaluates the results which may involve re-visiting the previously taken steps.

Building on Polya’s work, Schoenfeld (1987) describes effective mathematical problem-solving as being contingent on how one uses four types of knowledge/skills: (1) resource knowledge, which is knowledge about one’s abilities and cognitive processes including knowledge of how to perform tasks or procedures; (2) heuristics, which are specific problem-solving methods or strategies; (3) regulatory processes, which includes the organisation and selection of resources and strategies; and (4) beliefs, which includes perceptions of and assumptions about mathematics (Gama, 2004).



Note: The above paragraphs are adapted from my minor research paper, Examining Supports for Metacognition in Singaporean Lower Secondary Mathematics Textbooks, NIE, 2011. All rights reserved.

Related links:

(1) Metacognition – The secret to learning and problem-solving;

(2) Metacognition enhances learning;

(3) Is Metacognition part of the Singapore Math curriculum?




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