Sunday, August 4, 2013

Problem of the Week

My Problem of the Week is how to handle when students all finish at different times.  It's inevitable, but only now am I finally getting a system together to handle it.  Read my last post for details. 

This post is all about my new Problem of the Week.  I think I tried something like this my first year, but it was more like a problem of the month, hardly anyone ever attempted it, and I might have abandoned it after 4 months.  Not a win at all!  I'm coming back with a better plan this time around.

First of all, I'm making a set of 40 problems (and my answers) this summer.  No need to search for them mid-year.   I've collected some interesting problems from Mathcounts and Exeter, along with a few other sites.  As I'm thinking through this more, I think I'm going to need some open-ended questions to really make this take off, so if you have good sources, please let me know. 

Second, I've totally rethought the process.  See, I could have kids do the problems on their own, turn them in to me, wait for me to check them, tell them if they're right or wrong, and move on.  Who does most of the work in that scenario?  Me.  And goodness knows I don't need another stack of papers to check!  Who should be doing all (or most of) the work?  The kids.  Enter the new system: each week, I'll post a new question to the POTW bulletin board area.  Students will be encouraged to write up their solutions and post them to the bulletin board themselves.  Then (and this is the part that I'm most excited about) other students will be encouraged to respond to the solutions posted and tack their responses to the board.  They can ask questions or make comments.  If I can get it to take off the way I envision, there will be a mess of notebook paper surrounding the question.  (Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, anyone?)  On Friday, we'll tear down the week's work and start fresh on Monday.

Third, I want this "discussion" to happen among my classes.  Currently, my school groups students into homogeneous classes for reading and math.  The students know this.  They also know which teachers or classes are "high" and which are "low."  I once had a student tell me, "You know I'm not good at reading because I am in Mrs. ___'s class."  I teach a middle-low group (8th grade math) and the two highest math groups (CC Algebra I).  I'd like to have these students conversing about math via the POTW board so that the students in a lower group see that they can contribute just as much as the students in the higher classes. 

Do you use anything like a problem of the week?  How does it work in your classroom?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B


  1. I would be interested in seeing examples of your Problems of the Week. Could you post them please? Thanks for the idea! I love it!

    1. I won't repost any of the Exeter or Mathcounts problems since they aren't my work but as I write some of my own I will absolutely share!

  2. I do something similar in that I post an open-ended question on the door. Rather than exit tickets, I give my kids sticky notes to write a thought or answer to the question on the door and post it as they leave my class. I found they loved reading each other's answers and writing back to each other, so I sometimes left the question up for a week.

    For kids who finish early, I compiled a folder of anchor activities that were engaging but that we didn't always have time to do in class. (Like a one-minute persuasive speech about your favorite product, etc.) But you're right, I ended up doing all the follow-up and checking. Perhaps if I posted a more involved Question of the Week that would require some thought, it could be used as an anchor activity. I've also thought about having them keep a log of "extra" work done, and then assigning some type of bonus credit, but again, that requires tallying and work on my part. :)

  3. In the past, I've used Scholastic's Math Story Problems; I'd print them out and then cut them into separate problems and post them for the whole month. The students would turn in an index card with their name, period, and answer and correct cards would earn points for their class period. I would get really behind in checking them, though.

    This year, I'm going to try using 730 Daily Math Warm-Ups, showing just a week at a time.

  4. Thanks for these links. I'm looking forward to checking them out.