#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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