Date: Sep 29, 1992 1:42 PM
Author: Jim Levin,
Subject: Grand and Everyday Challenges in Education

Want to involve students in real world problem solving
activities? Join in the Grand & Everyday Challenges for
Education. Questions and problems and other challenges, both
"grand" and everyday, will be posed by folks for whom these are
real challenges. These will be sent electronically to interested
school groups so that they can find ones relevant to their
curriculum. They can then interact with the challenge posers and
develop solutions. Groups of students and teachers will be able
to form "tele-task forces" to work together over the network to
solve challenges. Successful solutions will in some cases lead
to a reward for the school group.

Goals: To develop students problem solving skills, especially
working collaboratively with others, both locally and remotely.
To have students learn skills and knowledge within a broader,
more motivating context.

Grade levels: This project can involve students of any grade
level or ability level. The ways in which students become
involved can vary, but all are welcome to participate.

Duration: This project will run throughout the 1992-1993 school
year. If you send us a list of what topics you'll be dealing
with during which periods of the year, we'll send you those
challenges that are related to those topics.

Content Area: All content areas can be involved.

Attached are some examples of how we plan to have this project
work. If you're interested in participating in the Grand &
Everyday Challenges for Education, send me a message and I'll add
you to our electronic mail list and send you further information.

Project coordinator:
Jim Levin
University of Illinois
210 Education Building, 1310 S. 6th St., Champaign, IL 61820
FrEdMail address:
Internet address:
Here are some examples of how the Grand & Everyday Challenges for
Education can work (these are hypothetical, but I hope we can work
to make them real):

Grand Challenges

A world class mathematician posts on an unsolved theorem that's
important to the progress of his work. A high school math class
teacher selects that challenge and poses it to her students, who
apply a new piece of visualization software to the problem and
develop some promising new approaches which assist the
mathematician in developing a new way to thinking about the
theorem that allows an innovative solution.

A panel of ecological experts is concerned with the issue of how
to increase the rate of recycling plastics. They are
particularly concerned about the impact of "juice boxes", since
they are a composite of plastic, paper, and aluminum. They post
as a challenge how to deal with the problems raised for recycling
of "juice boxes". Two elementary school classes chooses to consider
this challenge jointly. They interview their fellow classmates about
what they like and dislike about juice boxes, they interview
their parents about why they buy them, they observe the ways that
they and their classmates use and dispose of them. They
consider alternatives to juice boxes, and develop an alternate
that they write up and submit back to the ecological panel, which
considers it, and includes it in their report to Congress, which
changes regulations about the manufacture of such containers to
encourage the more effective solution suggested by the elementary
school class and refined by the panel.

A team of scientists developing state-of-the-art
supercomputer-based models of tornados posts a description of a
puzzling mismatch between their model and data from a set of
recent tornados in Illinois. A middle school science class in
Illinois examines aspects of the model though their network
connection, accesses additional weather information about those
tornados from their online state weather database, and formulates
some new hypotheses to explain the anomalies. They communicate
electronically with the team of scientists to clarify some
aspects of the mismatch, and to get suggestions for ways to test
those hypotheses by applying the model to additional tornado
data. Then the class submits the surviving hypotheses back to the
team of scientists for further investigation.

Everyday Challenges

A local park district is in the process of deciding where to
locate a new playground structure. They'd like to conduct a
survey to help them decide. They post their challenge, and a
local elementary school teacher organizes her class to formulate
the questions, collect the data, enter it into a statistical
analysis program, and print out the results.

A university professor, as part of her research project, needs to
know what middle school students think about advertising on
Saturday morning TV. She posts the challenge, then several
schools together take up the challenge, conducting the surveys,
analyzing them, and sending a report and the data to the

A local agency serving homeless people faces a shortage of
child care workers. It posts the challenge. A group of
schools contact the homeless shelters in their areas, and
compile a list of different ways in which child care is
provided. One approach, to work with a local retirement
home to involve retired people as child care providers, is
proposed as a solution to the challenge. Details of how that
solution works in another location are provided, along with
some suggestions of modifications that would make the
solution more effective in the challenge location.