Friday, November 10, 2017

Problem Solving Night

Every year, we (the three math teachers in my department), offer two evenings to the families of our middle school community to work on fun and engaging math problems together.

The basics:

- Send out a communication to the community.  All are invited and parents/guardians are expected to stay and enjoy the math with their students.

-  Limit the evening to 1 hour.  We have found that any longer and students are not as engaged.

- Create a packet of engaging problems.  Something for every level.  Try to use problems that incorporate manipulatives of some sort and include problems that are not strictly math - maybe a word search, crossword, picture problem, etc.  We've also offered simpler brain teasers for siblings and coloring pages (mathematical of course) for all.

- Have the packet, sharpened pencils, and the manipulatives near the door for easy access.  We also have answer sheets that are offered at the end of the night.

- Offer cookies.  Our students love to eat and have an excuse to eat.  Our department buys cookies to have out for all to enjoy.

This is our 5th year and we've been honing our activities from year to year.  We have created 4 boxes of two packets(one fall/ one spring) each.  Therefore, students will never see the same problems in their 3 years in our middle school.  We find problems in logic books, on the internet and from the #MTBoS Community on Twitter.  This year, we included David Butler's Panda Square Activity  in one of the rooms.  Parents, students and even our principal loved playing with this puzzle!  Thank you to Sarah Carter for your gorgeous instruction sheet.

In prior years, we have led a group discussion of Bridges of Konigsberg, a problem about approximation of zero (none of us can remember the exact details-I'll try to find it later), and Dan Meyer's Bucky the Badger 3-Act.

Here's an example of a packet we have used in the past.  Many thank yous to all of the resources we've borrowed from.

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