Math Forum: Using the Problems of the Week
Math Forum
Problems of the Week

What Teachers Say

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My students solve the problems individually, following a three-step process. On Monday night, they rewrite the problem in their own words, clearly enough so that someone who was absent would understand what to do. Then they begin the process of solving the problem, keeping a record of all of the problem-solving processes they used. Step three is to reach and thoroughly describe the solution. On Friday, they meet with other classmates to share the processes they used, reach a consensus about the answer, and write a collective response to submit to the website. They learn communication skills, practice following directions and paying attention to detail, and exercise creative problem-solving methods. -P.H.

Each Monday I post in my classroom the problem for my students to read. During the week, they have an opportunity to submit a solution. They may work on it with a friend, but they must submit individually. I give extra credit to those that are recognized for having submitted a correct solution. We discuss the previous week's problem in class. I use journal writing with my students, so the PoW is a great followup, and allows them to use their writing skills. This is also helpful when they take the PA State Assessment in April. -S.C.

I have been using the POW in my classes this year as an extension to material we were covering in class or as an opportunity to practice their problem-solving skills. Since the students are all familiar with the PoW by now, I have decided to use these interesting problems as an opportunity for the students to earn bonus points. I run the PoW and hand it out to them each week. It will be up to the student to work through the problem and then submit it. If they are correct, they can earn bonus points for my class. I have begun to run the Algebra PoW on the back of the paper each week, so they can pick the one they choose to do. -C.M.

I have been using the Problem of the Week since the beginning of this school year with all of my seventh and eighth grade classes. All classes are in groups of 3 or 4. Students take turns submitting weekly and groups are changed every 3-4 weeks. I have not attached any kind of grade to it but am thinking about how I might want to start. -B.M.

I have used the MidPoW as a group project for some students while other students were catching up with the class material. It's a great way to fill in some timing gaps. -K.W.

Every Monday we discuss the problem as a class and make suggestions for which strategies can be used to solve the problem. We usually spend the entire class period (50 minutes) on discussion. The students then have until Friday to work individually or with partners to solve the problem and write an explanation. If there is time I will proofread their explanations but majority of the time they are on their own unless help is asked. On Fridays we go to the tech lab and type in the solutions. The students receive credit in class for solving the problem and submitting a solution. -B.M.

I am currently giving the students the PoW as part of their homework, which is due every week. There have been times when students have chosen to work as groups for group solutions and other times when students have chosen to work either in groups or individually, but nonetheless, submit individual solutions. The PoWs have also given students an opportunity to work with parents at home. I believe that any opportunity to bring parents and students together can only enhance the student's interest in school and give families a chance to spend time together. Students are still required to explain any new knowledge or understandings in class, so there is a high level of accountability on the student's part.

I think it is imperative for students to be able to express their solutions in writing to a real-life audience other than the teacher. Having the feedback from other real people has been excellent and has shown that I'm not the only one who requires complete sentences, detailed explanations, and correct spelling. Yes, writing skills can and should be used outside the Language Arts classroom.

Having the students submit their work, whether it be correct or not, has heightened their focus on good and accurate work. Students who have gotten correct answers from others are still required to be able to explain their understanding of the problem. When feedback is given asking various questions and thorough detailed explanations for why certain operations were done, students are required to answer the feedback questions for class credit.

Knowing that good work is also highlighted has been another added incentive for students to try their best. The highlighted solutions have also given the students evidence that other students their age can and do take the time to give full and detailed explanations to the PoWs, and that there is often more than one approach to solving a problem. Students also get a kick out of seeing their names on the list of successful solutions. In addition, our state tests have "open-ended" questions that are quite similar to questions asked at this site. Great practice.

Although I ask all of my students to attempt each PoW, the PoWs allow me to differentiate for all levels of students and to provide enrichment activities for all. The PoWs also offer the opportunity for students to investigate concepts that we may or may not have had time to look at in depth. The POWs raise the bar! I'm excited about the PoWs that you make available and the feedback that is so important. Thank you for all your hard work. -C.S.

We are on block scheduling and I only see my math classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. They are presented with the problem on Tuesdays. We use a brainstorming technique (4-column method) in which we set up the first 10 minutes on Tuesdays. This helps the students understand what the question is asking. Students then discuss ways to solve the problem. On Thursdays, students are given another 10 minutes at the beginning of class to begin to discuss possibilities and we share ways they have come up with to answer the problem. On Fridays, they are completing their write-ups as if they were to answer the problem on the Internet. I only require the students to submit one problem every nine weeks, but they must attempt the problem weekly. This has been a great "sponge" activity for the students at the beginning of the class period. I have also had wonderful comments from parents regarding the use of technology as a teaching tool in the math classes. -T.S.

This site is used for our problem of the week contest for 8th grade students. We have students of 8-12th grades in our school. Our Math Club offers a problem of the week contest. To attract kids to your site and to take advantage of the variety of the problems of the week based on different math backgrounds we decided to invite our students to submit problem solutions to the Math Forum. Then we can check what and how they did and announce winners in different categories at school. The Middle School section is open to 8th grade students only to be qualified for recognition at the school. We also have students of other grades who can submit problem solutions based on their current math class. -I.L.

I will be using the PoW for extra credit in the regular classroom. I want my students to become more comfortable using the computer and using it for educational purposes. I am working toward an intense intgration of technology in my classroom. Also, the PoW forces students to use all aspects of their problem-solving skills. We are preparing for the standardized tests and the PoW should help with that. The extra credit will be offered during a four-five week period. I am looking forward to seeing the results of this assignment. -T.M.

I am currently using the PoW in my Computer Programming classes. I am hoping that it will help the students improve their math skills and communication skills. I am anticipating having PoW-WOW's after school for students who would like to get together with me to work on the problems. -R.P.

My students are expected to complete a certain number of PoWs per year as a homework assignment. They turn in a hard copy of their submission with your response and revisions if they made them. I care more that they try. I give credit whether they get it right or wrong. I am intensely grateful that they have the opportunity to hear someone else ask for more thorough and clear explanations of their reasoning besides just me. -S.S.

My students have had some experience this year in solving problems and doing write-ups based on those problems, which are then scored by me using a rubric. (This is part of how I am attempting to prepare my students for participation in our state's "MCAS" tests, which they must pass in grade 10 in order to graduate.) By using the Problems of the Week, I hope to expose them to additional problems (and well-crafted solutions!) that will help them to improve their ability to communicate their mathematical problem-solving processes. I intend to pass out the Problem of the Week to all my students on Mondays, and require that they submit something by the end of the week. -P.A.

The students in the eighth grade accelerated math classes work on the problem of the week once every other week. They are given the problem in class and have a week to solve it and write their solutions on paper. We then visit the computers in the media center and write the solutions. This has been helpful in motivating students to think clearly and communicate their ideas clearly. -P.C.

I use the PoW's as an extra-credit opportunity for any student who wants to take the challenge. Each week I introduce (by reading aloud) the problem to every class, and pass out copies to anyone interested. Also, I have an ongoing bulletin board in the main hallway that contains copies of the current problem that any student in the school can take. A current list of TOP PROBLEM SOLVERS is updated on a weekly basis and posted on the bulletin board. Results are also published in school newsletters, etc. -T.D.

I would like to thank you for a wonderful web site! The problems not only made my students think, but gave them practice in articulating their thinking processes. Keep up the great work! -A.B.

I require my students to submit solutions to two problems of the week per month. I don't give credit based on right or wrong answers, but on the quality of their explanations and the effort/time put into solving the problem. With particularly difficult problems, I work with students outside of class and, at times, we solve the problems as a class. But for the most part, they use the problems as an individual exercise. -K.M.

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