Problem Solving: Eliminating Possibilities

Eliminating Possibilities is a problem-solving strategy in which students remove possible answers until the correct answer remains.
Teaching Strategies:
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Updated on: March 8, 2007
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How Can You Stretch Students' Thinking?

Math problems can be simple, with few criteria needed to solve them, or they can be multidimensional, requiring charts or tables to organize students' thinking and to record possibilities as they are eliminated.

This is an example of a problem that can be solved using logical thinking and eliminating possibilities.

Tom, Tanya, and Josh live on Main Street. Two of them live on the right side of the street. The other one is across the street. One house is painted red, another has a circular driveway, and a third house is made of brick. The brick house is on the left side of the street. Tom has a pickup truck, which is parked in his circlular driveway. Tanya lives across the street from Tom. Which house does Josh live in?

You could make a chart like the one below to help organize the eliminated possibilities because the question is multidimensional.

Josh Tanya Tom
Painted Red Yes x x
Circular driveway x xYes
Brick House x Yes x

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