Once a Problem Solver, Always a Problem Solver
Call me weird, but I’ve always loved a good multi-step math problem. There’s something about seeing the path from an unknown to a solution that is so rewarding. I know that not everyone shares the same love, but can we agree that problem solving in math helps develop skills for problem solving in real life?
- listening or reading carefully;
- making meaning and analyzing;
- researching and finding more information where there may be gaps;
- being creative with solutions;
- communicating our ideas and thoughts to others;
- making a decision and taking a risk;
- reevaluating if necessary.
These are all skills that are not unique to math.
And so, this week we will begin our Problem of the Week homework. Every Tuesday, students will come home with a new math word problem. They will not all be getting the same one, as they are all individuals with different skills and subject area that they need to focus on. They will have all week to work on these problems, and should bring them back on the following Monday (or sooner). I’m hopeful that by personalizing the problem to the student, they will be able to solve these problems independently, but it may take some time to find those “just right” problems.
I am going to ask each student to do two things:
- Attempt to answer the problem on their own and show all their work.
- Give themselves a rating at the bottom of the page according to this scale:
If your child needs support from you to understand what the problem means or how to solve it, and still does not understand what to do, that would be a level 0.
If your child needs support from you to understand what the problem means or how to solve it, and understands a little, that would be a level 1.
If your child needs support from you to understand what the problem means or how to solve it, but then can solve it independently, that would be a level 2.
If your child can understand the problem on their own and solve it, but can’t completely explain how they know what to do, that would be a level 3.
If your child can understand the problem on their own, solve it on their own, and explain what to do in their own words and why, that would be a level 4.
The reason for the rating scale is to help me ensure students are getting problems that are challenging, yet solvable for them. That is why students do not get the same problems each week. These problems are not meant to be stressful or to bring tears. If a problem is too challenging, it is my job to adjust for the next week. Same goes if a problem is not challenging enough. Students can always leave me a note in addition to their rating.
As we start this new system, I’m asking that you check in and make sure that your children are completing their homework, and giving an honest rating. Your feedback is always welcome!
PS – this will only begin tomorrow, so if you don’t see a problem today…don’t worry!