When an animal is confronted with a frustrating obstacle or a frustrating situation, normally the animal has to choose between two ways of dealing with it. The animal can try to escape or he can become angry and attack. I want to teach my students that humans can choose another way to overcome frustrating obstacles or situations. Human beings have human intellect to help them find other ways to overcome frustrating obstacles or situations.

There are five mental skills that can be used to overcome frustrating obstacles or situations. These five mental skills are:


The PLONSKI MATH METHOD uses a graduated series of developmental tasks to help the student to use and strengthen these five mental skills.

Because we want the student to learn to overcome frustrating obstacles or situations through the use of these five mental skills, we must be careful how we deal with a student who comes to us for help. We must avoid giving the student a direct solution to his frustrating problem. There are almost always many ways to solve a particular problem. The student himself must find a way. Whenever we directly give the student a way to solve his frustrating problem, we are depriving the student of a growth opportunity.

If a student comes for help with a problem we must avoid giving the student a direct solution to his problem. Instead we must give indirect help. Ask him questions to lead his thinking. Ask him questions he should have thought to ask himself. Let the student spend more time with the problem. All problems do not necessarily get solved in one day. Give him time to think about it. Introduce him to related data or parables or examples which will stimulate his thinking or help him organize his thinking better. Let him try again tomorrow. If it will take the student more than one period to solve this problem, then also allow the student to turn his attention to some other problems in the meantime. Give his sub-con- scious, problem-solving mind some space and time to work it out.

(As a last resort, if we feel the student must be shown a way to solve it, show the student more than one way to solve it. Impress on the student that problems have multiple means of solution.)

This does not mean that the teacher no longer teaches math concepts, vocabulary, and procedures. Quite the contrary, the teacher must anticipate the frustrating problems the student will soon encounter and expose the student to math concepts, vocabulary, and procedures which will be useful to the student when the time comes for their possible use. By all means pre-arm the student with useful tools but in practice let the student decide which tool to use and when.

REMEMBER OUR PURPOSE HERE. We purposely created situations containing frustrating obstacles and we tell the student, "Just deal with it! You can do it! Try something and see what happens. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. You can learn from mistakes. Don't give up. Learn persistence. If you don't finish today, try again tomorrow. You can do it!

Tom Plonski