Richard Rusczyk had an eye-opening experience at a math competition in 10th grade. Armed with his formula sheets and confident he was “good at math” from memorizing formulas, Rusczyk did not solve a single one of the 60 math problems presented to him at his competition. It was a humbling and perplexing experience for him, but he soon learned the reason: “true mathematics is not a process of memorizing formulas and applying them to problems tailor-made for those formulas. Instead, the successful mathematician possesses fewer tools, but knows how to apply them to a much broader range of problems.” Rusczyk has since started his own math competition, writes math books and resources, and provides math instruction. He encourages educators to focus more on problem solving and less on what he calls the “memorize-use-forget” approach.
So that Tiffany does not have to endure that same trying experience, it is crucial that her math education focus on allowing her the room to find the solutions to complex math problems on her own. This may be the most important time in Tiffany’s math education, since the math found in many careers is the math learned in an 8th grade curriculum. With a strong foundation in necessary algorithms and complex problem solving, Tiffany will have the skills she needs to advance and succeed, not only in math, but in every aspect of her life. As Rusczyk says, Problem solving is crucial in mathematics education because it transcends mathematics. By developing problem solving skills, we learn not only how to tackle math problems, but also how to logically work our way through any problems we may face. The memorizer can only solve problems he has encountered already, but the problem solver can solve problems she’s never seen before. (https://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Resources/articles.php?page=problemsolving) At the end of 8th grade, Tiffany should be able to solve this problem: Ashrita Furman, who holds 19 Guinness World Records, walked 80.96 miles in about 24 hours carrying a bottle of milk on his head. He also bounced about 23 miles on a pogo stick in 12.5 hours. What is the difference in rate per hour in these two feats?