We talk a lot about the problem-solving process here at the Math Forum and try to develop resources that will help teachers help their students get better at problem solving.  We discuss how to encourage students to share their thinking (such as through Noticing and Wondering) and how to cultivate classrooms that value those thoughts and ideas as much as answers.  But if we take a look at our own “problem solving” product, the Problems of the Week, we have to acknowledge that there isn’t so much support for process, starting with the “Compose Answer” button that appears at the bottom of each problem.  Oops!

We have considered a number of possibilities, including an option (chosen by the teacher) to show just the scenario for a problem and then have fields in which students can submit their Noticings and Wonderings.  That sort of thing would require some significant programming time, so while we are working on putting it in place (I’ll blog about it more before we get too far), we are first going to support the PoW process through some wording changes in the submission process.  We’ve come up with some possibilities and wonder if anyone has alternative ideas.

On a problem page, it says, “Compose Answer”, which of course implies you have “an answer”.  We’re thinking of changing that to “Submit Ideas”, which seems a bit more welcoming to submissions that might not actually contain an answer yet (or ever).

We’re going to start by changing this to “Get Started”, since the “Submit Ideas” button is on the next page. We also considered “Record Ideas”. Leave a comment if you have another suggestion we should consider.

Once you get to the “submission” page, there are four spots we’re suggesting alternative wording:

  • Original: Credit for this problem will be given to ….
  • New: Credit for these ideas will be given to ….

  • Original: Summarize your answer in a sentence or two
  • New: Summarize your ideas in a sentence or two.

  • Original: Explain how you solved the problem.  Include your math.
  • New: Explain your ideas and how you figured them out.

  • Original: If you’ve created an image as part of your solution, you may upload it here.
  • New: If you’ve created an image that illustrates some of your ideas, you may upload it here.
We found another one! The “Submit Answer” button will now be labeled “Submit Ideas”.

What do you think?  Would these sorts of changes convey “process” to your students?  Do you have any other suggestions?