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As years pass by, my problem-solving skills are becoming more prevalent. Although this may be surprising to many people, I obtain my problem-solving skills through mathematics. Note that it does not come from repeated drills in computations, but from more complex math problems that require both divergent and convergent thinking. At the national and international level, there are only a few questions in one math contest, despite the numerous topics that they may originate from. This means that students cannot focus and study a specific topic. However, the central idea is the same: the solution requires students to think outside of the box.
Personally, I strongly encourage problem-solving skills to be developed in classrooms as it is a transferable skill that will be useful no matter which career path a student pursues in the future. Yet, teaching problem-solving strategies is different from training students to create their own “tricks.” Some teachers do teach students some general problem-solving strategies, such as drawing a picture representative of the problem. However, the students who are able to create more efficient problem-solving strategies specific to the problem exceed other students, who only know some general strategies, by a large margin.
Since it is a universal skill, problem-solving has served me well in the past. Of course, I will continue to develop this skill as it is one of my strongest and most valuable skills.
I find that I learn conceptual material, which requires a deep understanding of the material, faster than other people of my age. Instead of memorizing material, I try to figure out how to derive certain ideas and theorems. In particular, my problem-solving skills become a strong advantage as I try to grasp conceptual material. For example, I never memorize math formulas. I have never heard of Soh-Cah-Toa (a trigonometry rule) until others asked me to teach them about it. I try to find patterns and connections and, as a result, derive formulas.
The ability to understand complicated concepts allowed me to learn faster than other students around me. I will not only be able to understand more concepts in a shorter amount of time, but it will also serve me well as I enter university. The speed of instruction in university is very fast compared to that of high school. As I enter university and higher education, I will not struggle much as I attempt to adapt to the face-paced learning environment. Even after university, I will be able to learn certain skills faster when it comes to a workplace environment.
I tend to seek evidence before I come to a conclusion. The events that we judge and the conclusions that we make can be very situational. For example, a student, John, might suddenly start to hand in late assignments, despite his previously excellent work ethic. Yet, the underlying reasons for this event might be overlooked by some people. Perhaps John had an abrupt change in his attitude towards school, homework, and academics. Perhaps John’s father was diagnosed with cancer and John had to take care of and visit his father whenever he was not in school. It is simply inconsiderate to assume that John is not a hard worker and has poor time management without researching further in detail.
That said, even though I do not make baseless assumptions, I do not ask for every single piece of evidence available, either. If a friend wishes to borrow my textbook for a day, I would not say, “Well, I do not have enough evidence showing that you will eventually return my book.” Being aware of different and diverse possibilities in a situation and attempting to reason to an acceptable result is not equal to chasing a chain of events all the way to the origin. The former is having judgment as a strength. The latter is being nosy. Of course, this does not imply that once I learn about a piece of evidence, it will impact my decisions forever. Through absorbing different opinions and facts, I am still, nonetheless, influenced. I try to think things through and examine all the different possibilities. By relying on clear evidence, I avoid jumping to conclusions.
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