What to Do When You Get Stuck

It happens. You are working with a student and you get stuck.

  • Use this as an opportunity to model good problem solving behaviors (do what you do when you get stuck)
  • Be honest and don’t give incorrect answers. Say “I don’t know the answer; let’s see if we can figure it out.”

Strategies to Consider

  • Have the student state the problem in his/her own words
    • Define any unknown terms
    • Write the problem in the following form – “Given ‘x’ find ‘y’.”
  • Use the student’s resources, ask a lot of questions
    • Find out which pieces of the problem the student does understand
    • Write out any formulas that may apply
    • See if there is a similar example in the book
    • Use class notes
    • Ask student if he/she has encountered a problem similar to this one
  • Draw a picture or graph, make a model
  • Break the problem into smaller parts
  • Make a numerical example that fits the problem and solve this first
  • Look for patterns
  • Brainstorm
  • Take a break and then come back to it

If you can’t seem to get unstuck, refer the student to their instructor

Source: Bethel University