Patrick Barringer



  • M.S. Georgia Tech
  • M.Ed. Roberts Wesleyan College
  • B.A. Houghton College

“If you wish to learn swimming you have to go into the water and if you wish to become a problem solver you have to solve problems.” - George Polya

There are two types of ‘problems’ that students interact with in their academic careers. The first, and arguably most common are those I would term ‘exercises.’ They involve a student strengthening their understanding of some facts by practicing solving question types that they have previously encountered. Questions of this sort are valuable in the same way that practicing scales is useful for a musician or shooting free throws is for a basketball player. The second type of questions are those I would truly call ‘problems.’ These are questions of a type the student has never encountered before. If I come to a question and already know in an instant how to solve it, is it really a problem? In the same way, if I encounter an obstacle in my life and I immediately know how to surmount it, was it really a problem?

In my classroom, I desire to engage my students with both exercises and problems, so that they can develop analytical thought, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. I consider it my job as a teacher to both give my students the tools they need to approach real problems, and the facts they need to excel in mathematics if they choose to continue to study math or a related field in college or beyond.

Finally, we must all remember the ultimate point.

“The [purpose] of all learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love and imitate Him.” - John Milton

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