#TheMathContest – Supporting Student Problem-Solving

My last several years in high school, I was a ‘roving’ teacher, meaning I didn’t have a classroom of my own, but switched classes just like the students. This made for a very challenging prep experience, and required me to be super-organized and self-contained on my little rolling cart. The rooms I ‘borrowed’ for my classes did allow me to keep an area for my students (to turn in homework and pick up missing work, etc.). In each class, my students had a portfolio (i.e. file folder), where they kept their work, one of which was the daily ‘warm-up’ problems.  These were basically a set of 5-6 problem-solving activities – some applications, some skills practice, some real-world scenarios, some puzzles, etc.  Students were expected to pick this up daily and work on these in the first few minutes of class, which gave me time to: a) get there; b) check homework; and c) set up for the class/lesson, etc.  It gave everyone a chance to ‘settle’. Students had a choice – they could do some or all of the problems by the end of the week, and I just checked portfolios and work at end of week. We would always discuss possible solutions the following week (and also they earned points for their efforts).

Needless to say, since I was providing these problem-solving experiences daily, I had to find lots of different resources for these problems, especially those that were more application and thought-provoking. Can’t tell you how many problem-solving books I purchased! There were other sources, such as The Math Forum P.O.W. (now no longer in existence, though their P.O.W. “s do still live on at NCTM), and even my textbooks had some great problems if you looked for them. The point is, it took a lot of effort to provide these challenges for my students. Obviously, I could have done it once a week instead, but for me, it served that duel purpose of focusing my students every day while I was en-route. My goal, and something I think all teachers should be striving for, is to provide students some challenges and problem-solving experiences on a regular basis – ones that may utilize prior knowledge or challenges them in different ways of thinking with new skills.

For those of you looking for such challenges, there is a new resource available from Ole Miss’ School of Education called #TheMathContest. It is actually a reboot of something Ole Miss did in the past, but it’s been revamped and improved, and now is sponsored by Casio Education and encourages the use of the new, FREE, online math software, Classpad.net that I talked about in my last post. Basically, new problems are posted each Monday, and each user can submit one answer per hour. Correct solutions earn points and you can view rankings on the website. Go to the link above to get more details on the contest. There are monthly rankings and annual rankings, which you can view online. How points are awarded is explained here.

This would be a great way to engage students and get them doing some challenging math, not to mention trying out the new software as well! If I were still in the classroom, I think I might add this as extra credit for students (for trying) and then maybe have a collaborative problem-solving time where we discuss possible approaches to the solutions after the previous weeks problem has ‘expired’.  Or maybe group students in ‘teams’ where they submit as a team? In any case, it would be nice to have a problem challenge already done for me each week, that’s for sure!

One thing Classpad.net is doing is posting video solutions to past P.O.W.’s which you can find on our Youtube Channel  Here is an example from May 7, 2018’s Problem of The week:

 The Problem:  Find the 1-millionth term ins the sequence {1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, ……}

 

There is still time to try this weeks #TheMathContest Problem of the Week for May 14, 2018!  And check out the rankings – you will see students from countries all over the world who are participating.

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ClassPad.net – My Math Love-Affair Continues….

I am a lucky woman.

For my almost 30 years in education, I have loved what I do. Teaching math, helping others teach math, finding amazing tools and resources that make learning math engaging and exciting – my ‘work’ is a labor of love. My love-affair with mathematics and teaching has been influenced by many experiences and people and has led me to yet a another new adventure in my quest to help others love and appreciate the beauty of mathematics – Classpad.net,  a free, web-based software that I have been directly involved in, from conception, to development, and now, to public release and hopefully, viral usage!

Some of my Key family

It’s been a weird path of growth, with connections leading to new opportunities, and more connections, and more opportunities. As a new teacher, and also working on my masters at VCU in VA, I worked under John Van De Walle, who started me on the path of making mathematics hands-on and visual and based on problem-solving. This quest led me to look for resources and share my love of math at conferences – sparking my professional development/training itch.

DG5 Groupies!

My search for visualization and hands-on resources led me to a closet in our math department, where I found Discovering Geometry and Sketchpad. And as I used these resources to present at conferences, I got to know and LOVE Key Curriculum and become, I admit, a groupie. This led to getting to know the Key sales folks and being asked to become a Key consultant. All this PD experience led to an administrator job, where, miracle of miracle, all the Discovery books from Key were just being adopted, so I was part of this implementation, which led to meeting Key’s PD trainer, Tim Pope. As a result – lo and behold, this groupie is working for Key!

It was a dream come true! The Key family, one full of former math educators all trying to share the love of mathematics and create inquiry-based, engaging math through great problem-solving and dynamic math technology tools, was amazing. Then – the dream burst, the family split up, and the books went to Kendall Hunt (with Tim), and the technology to MHE (with me).

Heartbreak.

Casio Family

Time to open a new door: I decided to finish my doctorate and branch into the unknown world of education consulting. And that Key family? They are still there – sending connections and opportunities, which is why I now teach at Drexel, work with Casio, travel the world for The Dana Center and Department of Defense Education Activities, among many other experiences.

At this moment in time, my worlds have collided. My Casio family, which is a group of math educators trying to share the love of math and teaching and learning math through dynamic visualization, is inspirational. We’ve worked as a collaborative team, with Casio‘s incredible R&D team in Japan, to create a tool that is going to revolutionize mathematics. It’s everything math teachers want on one page, and it’s just in it’s baby-phase right now with potential for growth that is exciting.

The guys behind booth magic!

Classpad.net has a partnership with Kendall Hunt just recently announced. Those very Discovering Mathematics books I so love will be adding to their power of inquiry by providing our tool as the discovery math tool embedded in the ebooks. My new family is joining with my old family….(and Tim and I are reunited) (and we have a podcast too – 180days Podcast)(shameless plug)!

Right now? It feels like I’ve connected many parts of my life – where many of my previous ‘experiences’ and worlds have joined together. Not sure if this is the circle of life, or a Mobius strip, or maybe an example of a network with many nodes. But whatever it is, it feels right, it feels exciting and it feels limitless.

So, what is Classpad.net?

It is something that makes me proud to be a part of because it is a web-based software, freely available to teachers and students, that encompasses all the things I wished for as a teacher, and it’s all in one place instead of several different tools that don’t communicate with each other. My doctorate dissertation was on edtech, and how teachers have so many technology tools forced upon them (hardware, software, apps, tablets, PC’s, interactive whiteboards, student response systems, etc) and none of them talk to each other, and each require separate training and support. Instead of using any of these tools effectively, teachers use the ones they are comfortable with, and often not the tool that makes the most sense for helping students learn. Or worse, no tools at all.

Classpad.net solves that problem by being a tool where you never have to leave the page – you can do geometry on the same page you are doing statistics. You can add a calculation, you can make a graph – all from one place. You can dynamically show mathematics and students can explore math and make their own discoveries on a table or a laptop or a phone – with the touch of a finger. There is a complete CAS (computer algebra system) engine behind this software, so it’s capabilities and functionality are incredibly robust. We are just in the ‘beta’ stage of release, which is even more exciting because we are really seeking input and feedback from users – what’s not working for you? what do you want? And, just like a start-up tech company, our team is responding quickly and changing based on what teachers and students want and need. The possibilities are endless because we have Casio’s 60 years of worldwide technology expertise and the experiences and input of math teachers building something that can be what teachers and students really need, want, and use – all in one place.

We have a Classpad.net Youtube Channel that we are just starting to build out, but here’s a quick overview of Classpad.net

It’s only the beginning – so check it out. But, as someone who has had a long-standing love affair with math and math technology, this is going to be a fun ride with so much more to come!! Join the fun and start creating with math and sharing your love of math as well on Twitter and Facebook!