So I really need to get blogging more, so I am so grateful to see this happening. I’ve decided to answer the first question:
What is one of your favorite open-ended/rich problems? How do you use it in your classroom? (If you have a problem you have been wanting to try, but haven’t had the courage or opportunity to try it out yet, write about how you would or will use the problem in your classroom.)
So I recently finished this problem, which I have been tweaking each year and still don’t think is perfect, but it’s gotten so much better. It’s called The Class Party Problem and involves having students explore the costs of various parties and determine which one would be best based on cost. The students model linear relationships using a table, graph, and equation, then answer some comprehension questions and make a convincing poster as their final product. They also reflect on their learning through blog posts and comment on each others work.
Here’s the task:
The Class Party Problem
Here’s the group work sheet I use:
Cooperative Group Responsibilities
Here’s the Blog Post Reflection:
Class Party Problem Reflection
What I like
This task really allows students of all abilities to shine. All my students are able to fill out the table to get started. Once they’ve done that, they discuss with their groups about the appropriate scaling on the axes to graph their data. My struggling students get stuck on writing the equations, but after talking to them about the patterns in the table, they are able to formulate the cost per person as the rate of change and the initial fee as the y-intercept.
I also like the products they create. (I’ll upload some pictures when I get back to school. I forgot to take some =P) The posters show the tables, graphs, and answers to comprehension questions. What’s nice is that’ I’ve already used the data from their tables to talk about rate of change directly from the table. We’ll be using the graphs to talk about systems of equations soon. Being able to reference back to this problem gives them some context they can see.
What I don’t like and what needs some work
So this is the first year where I’ve really slowed down and allowed them to dive into the concepts a lot more. The comprehension questions are still the ones I used my first year teaching and have to be changed majorly next year. They are too boring and I need to find a way to better surface the concepts that this problem reinforces.
I also think there should be a technology piece to this. Having them graph the lines on the computer and use them to find the intersections. I work at an Arts & Technology school, so infusing art and technology into these products is at the core of our school.
I also need to find ways to scaffold this task for my students with IEPs who struggle working in groups or working with concepts without someone there to help guide their thinking. I had 5 groups (out of 24) who really struggled to complete this task without my constant intervention and they really didn’t learn what most other groups learned.
A bit more
I’m transitioning my curriculum to be common core aligned and it’s taking a lot more work than I imagined. However, I’m seeing my students think more critically and this is a big improvement from my standard direct instruction aligned to California content standards and CST preparation. I’m also very excited that California has canceled CSTs for this school year. I have to say, it took a big weight off my shoulders and I feel like I can be a teacher who works hard to teach the students mathematics and not being forced to squeeze 9 months of content into 7 months.
I look forward to blogging more. Thanks to anyone who reads this! Please give critical feedback, I’m an every growing and learning teacher!