Three of the Math Forum's Problems of the Week (PoWs) are going to begin piloting a new "format" starting on January 21. This will start in the Geometry, Algebra, and Middle School Problems.
As you know, we've had to stop accepting submissions partly because of a reduction in staff but mostly because mentoring is a very time-consuming endeavor. While the problems themselves are useful, the submission process didn't offer enough additional value when there is no mentoring. We've been thinking hard about how we might enhance this process so that there is self-directed feedback on submissions.
Starting January 21 in those three services, instead of simply submitting a solution and waiting for a mentor to reply, students will be able to view hints, error checking strategies, or solutions, after submitting their answers. We then ask them to revise their submissions accordingly. Additionally, students who are interested will have an opportunity to reflect on how their solution compares to that of other students. This will be a more involved process for the students and will require more time at the computer, but our hope is that more immediate learning can take place without human intervention and perhaps students will learn more about problem-solving. This feedback and reflection may increase the value for students, even if they don't receive a response from a mentor.
Here's a brief overview of what it will entail. After submitting a solution, instead of the traditional "Thanks for your submission" page, students will have five choices that will look something like this:
1. I'm not sure how to solve this problem. Could I get a hint? 2. I think I've solved the problem. Am I on track? 3. I'm sure I'm right and that my method is sound. Can I see some other solutions so that I can compare them to my own? 4. I've checked my solution and it is correct. Can I see a more challenging problem? 5. I'm done for now.
Upon viewing the information for options 1, 2, 3, or 4, the students will have the opportunity to revise their answers. Additionally, students who have selected option 3 will be asked to write a bit about how the solutions provided compare to their own - this isn't an opportunity that students often have, and we're hopeful that some of them will take advantage of it. Students will not be required to complete their work in one sitting, as they can return to the process at their convenience (up until the revision deadline).
Students will receive email from us as before, including a URL to return to this process.
We'll be opening all of our problems to everyone, as before, but many students may not receive direct mentoring. We're experimenting with some possible mentoring options, including a Mentor Exchange Program, where teachers (or local recruits) would mentor a number of submissions based on how many submissions their kids generate, and working with students from Drexel University's Honors program. We'll continue to make announcements about these programs as we figure out how to make them work!
Problems will continue to run on two week cycles the rest of this academic year - we don't think we're ready to go back to a weekly schedule just yet.
The January 21 problems are currently available for preview. While this will certainly be a "pilot" program, we believe that it will offer significant benefit to your students.
We recommend that you go through the submission process yourself when the problems begin accepting submissions on Monday so that you can get a feel for how it works. If you have any questions or comments, please drop me a line - your feedback is very important to us and will help us to refine and adapt the new format so that it better meets the needs of you and your students.