Problem solving and modelling

In this short film for teachers Jennifer Jones explains decomposition, which is an important part of problem solving for students and a way for them to use key thinking skills.

Teacher notes

Decomposition is the act of breaking down a complex problem into a series of more manageable tasks. We do this every day when doing things like cooking or getting dressed. We follow a set of instructions in a certain order to get the outcome that we want.

A simple set of step-by-step instructions is also known as an algorithm. You can write an algorithm as a flow chart showing the different steps in the order that they need to be performed.

We can decompose educational tasks and write algorithms for completing them successfully. An essay can be broken down into an introduction, the main body of discussion and a conclusion. These can then be broken down into paragraphs, each needing a main point, supporting evidence and a concluding sentence.

This short film describes an exercise that calls for decomposition and the creation of an algorithm. In the “robot-teacher exercise” the class writes a set of instructions for the teacher to follow in order to complete a task. As the students may not get the instructions right the first time, they have to correct them until the teacher can perform the task successfully.

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