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Math, Science, and Social Studies is All About Problem-Solving

This week Dr. Scott takes on problem-solving skills in the areas of science and social studies. Be sure to listen to this week’s Education Game’s podcast when Dr. Scott and Matt chat with Jen Mascheck, a math specialist and coach for Houston A+ Challenge, an educational non-profit working to improve learning inside Houston’s public schools. Whereas Jen helps parents understand problem-solving and math, Dr. Scott focuses on problem-solving in science and social studies in this blog.

What happens to the world if COVID-19 doesn’t disappear for the next 50 years?

How does the human race survive climate change?

What happens to America and the world if more governments become less democratic and more become autocratic?

If you want your young learners to become interested in the study of science and social studies, start asking them questions like these and more like them. All of us get more engaged with learning when we are asked really important questions about really important problems, whether those problems are real or hypothetical. Once you ask the question, then introduce the Art of Observation protocol to your young learner as a guide toward potential answers to these essential questions. The Art of Observation protocol was first used by medical students when they visited art museums to sharpen their observation and diagnostic skills.

The Art of Observation consists of Looking, Describing, Thinking, and Connecting. Some find it a better way of thinking about scientific and social problems than the scientific method or a social science solution process. Let’s apply these four strategies to the three questions posed above to see what a learning experience might look like for your young learner.

What happens to the world if COVID-19 doesn’t disappear for the next 50 years?

Looking – What does the world look like if COVID-19 sticks around until 2070? Look at different countries and areas around the world, both developed and developing. Look at the medical, political, economic, and social impacts of such a world.

Describing – Communicate to an audience what the world looks like if COVID-19 sticks around until 2070. Present a picture and be ready to defend your description.

Thinking – Think about the possible solutions, beyond the current vaccine, that might be employed to eradicate COVID-19 before 2070.

Connecting – Connect what you have learned about COVID-19 with other potential threats to the world’s future. What similarities are there between the COVID-19 problem and other problems around the world? What are the differences? Might there be common solutions?

How does the human race survive climate change?

Looking – What does the current research say about climate change? What do climate scientists and social scientists believe to be the threats caused by climate change the world faces?

Describing – Describe how the human race can survive climate change. What needs to happen right now, 10 years from now, 50 years from now to make survival a reality? How different will the world look in 70 years even if we start practicing better environmental habits today?

Thinking – Think about developing a strategy to help the human race survive climate change. Be as specific as you can be.

Connecting – Compare your strategy with other strategies that have already been developed. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Are there any adjustments you would make after comparing your plan with the others?

What happens to America and the world if more governments become less democratic and more become autocratic?

Looking – How many democracies are operating in the world today? How many autocracies are operating? Are there differences with the democracies and autocracies?

Describing – How does a democracy operate? How does an autocracy operate? Are there similarities? What are the differences?

Thinking – Why is it better to rule democratically versus autocratically? What do citizens need to do to keep a democracy alive? Are all autocracies bad?

Connecting – Write a letter to America telling us what we need to do as citizens to keep our democracy, and to improve it! Write a letter to North Korea’s leadership telling them what you think of their government and why.

All of these examples speak more to older learners than young, but scaffolding can help turn these questions into ones more appropriate for younger learners. Scaffolding is an educator’s terms whereby a learning strategy is developed based upon the experience level of the learner. Not always, but most of the time we have to scaffold down for younger learners and scaffold up for those older. Here are examples of the art of observation skills applied to a younger learner for the COVID-19 question:

Looking – What is a pandemic? What is a virus? What is COVID-19?

Describing – Tell a story about COV-19 and someone it impacted (think of a relative, first responder, someone you heard about from your parents).

Thinking – How does a vaccine help protect humans from a virus?

Connecting – What can be done to improve the COVID-19 testing program and vaccine program?

If the question is too hard, think of an easier one. If the question is too easy, let your young learner come up with the answer and then think of a more difficult one.

Looking, Describing, Thinking, and Connecting is a problem-solving process that can be learned quickly and applied to a number of different academic pursuits, math, science, and social studies in particular.

This podcast is the fourth in a series Matt and I call “Parent Upskills.” Go to theeducationgame.com to access the first three in the series – Anytime/Anywhere Learning, Interest-based Learning, and Reading! And keep watching for the last four coming up over the next month.

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