Yesterday as Max and I were planning a workshop we’ll be facilitating in early August a recurring thought came to me — after spending hours of time on problem solving teachers sometimes comment to us, how will I ever find time to do this with my students?

As I ponder this issue, I wonder if at the heart of it is that

- the teachers realize that the amount of time we spend on one problem is worth the time?
- there is no apparent transfer from a condensed one-day workshop to a full-year class?
- teachers’ learning experiences are different from their students’ learning experiences?

*Worth the Time*

From formative assessment during the workshop and evaluations at the conclusion of our workshops, teachers indicate that the time spent is worth it for them.

*Transfer*

While teachers would like to transfer the ideas, this seems hard to achieve. So many school “routines” get in the way.

*Learning Experiences*

Are teachers more likely to be in control of their own learning? Are classrooms/schools ready at this point to have students be in control of their own learning?

How can teachers find time for rich problem-solving experiences for their students?

**Idea:**If students are encouraged to take charge of their own learning, our job is not to “lead” them through problem solving but instead to create environments that encourage them to embrace the process. Try the “At the End of the Period: Take 5 Minutes” approach.

Advantages:

- Using just 5 minutes at the end of a class period is manageable.
- Starting and stopping reinforces problem solving as a process.
- Perseverance is also reinforced.

Do you see any disadvantages?

Does it make sense that taking this approach could reinforce the idea of problem solving as a

**process**and that it’s not something to rush to finish just to be over and done? How might this idea fit within your classroom routine?
Hi Suzanne,

I really need to do a better job of reminding myself and students that not all problems need (or should) be wrapped up in one class period. I’ll have to try the “Take 5 minutes” approach this year. I feel that the first initial instance where I know students will run out of time, I’ll give myself a little bit more than five minutes so we can discuss the value of problem-solving as a “process.”

I’m making a list of 5 daily reminders that I will greet myself with each day as I enter the classroom. This one has been added to the list:

Starting and stopping reinforces problem solving as a process.

Thanks!

Hi Andrew,

I’ll look forward to hearing (or maybe viewing?) stories of how this goes for you. When I was writing the post it occurred to me that the classroom videos that I’ve made and the ones that the Math Forum will soon be including on our “companion website” for the Powerful Problem Solving book don’t show the idea of “starting and stopping.” Because we (Math Forum staff) don’t have our own classrooms and come in to a school to mentor/model, we usually use the full class period to give a teacher ideas.

This coming school year I’m going to try to capture on tape the “Take 5 minute” approach. I’m not sure if you or other EnCoMPASS folks are in situations to tape and publish video (just using an iPad or SmartPhone and then YouTube and/or Vimeo) but if that seems like a possibility, it would be great to offer that “look” to the community to go along with my paper handout of how to try it. I think it’s more powerful when it’s not the guest (me) coming in but the actual teacher illustrating how their classroom/their students react.

Another idea that I just thought of that I think I’ll blog about right now is working on multiple problems — start a new one before bring closure to the previous one.

[...] closure to a problem during a class period rather than using a Take 5 Minutes approach and let time elapse between engagement with a [...]

Suzanne,

This is a great idea, because I do feel the need to reconvene the class on a problem to share solution pathways before they leave for the day. “Take 5 Minutes” is great because I think it would keep most students “in suspense” and thinking about the problem even when they leave class.

Not a disadvantage, more classroom management, but I could see certain students coming in on the second day with a solution because they worked at home or with parents, so I would have to have a plan for how those students then approach the rest of the process.

I will definitely be trying this out to see how it works in the flow of my school day.

Thanks!

Kristin

Kristin,

I have to admit that with my 7th graders (average reading level 4th grade) I didn’t experience having them come the next day having worked out the solution! :) … but … if you present just the Scenario to start with, chances are less that they can come in with a solution since you’ve not decided on a question (yet).

Some students “might” make up their own question through wondering … but … they could also be challenged by someone else’s wondering. If your students are at this level of mathematical engagement, the trick will be to find some problems that could lead to a range of questions and then just present the scenario.

It will be so great to hear from you about how this goes when you try it in your classroom.

Thanks so much!

Suzanne

I, too, am interested in the “take 5 minutes” approach. I am one of those who is struggling with how do you fit problem solving into the classroom when we (seemingly) have so much to cover over the course of the year. I don’t know if my students would take it home and work it out with a parent, but I can definitely see that by introducing by using the scenario form that students would have some time to think about what they notice and wonder. For my students, personally, I don’t think they would necessarily rush to solve it all on their own. However, if they did, they could type it up and as their teacher, I could continue to push them to look at different aspects if they are ahead of other students.

I really like Andrew’s idea of 5 daily reminders and I have already been thinking about doing something similar for myself. Between attending EnCoMPASS and Twitter Math Camp, there are several things that I want to keep fresh in my memory as this school year proceeds.I think I may “borrow” Andrew’s statement to add to it.

–Lisa