In the May 30th issue of MathNEXUS, I printed two e-mails regarding best practices for using non-standard problems-of-the-week. It seemed only appropriate that I use these e-mails as a way to request input from others who have found successful ways to get students to explore these problems. Please re-read the two e-mails before reading the response below...
F.N, mathematics teacher at Mesa Union Junior High (CA), provides this great response:
I have been teaching junior high math for 5 years now and if there is one thing that I have NOT changed in the last 5 years (and never will as long as I teach math) is giving my students a weekly Problem of the Week. I call it "PS" for problem solving. (A few parents have referred to it as the weekly PMS, but I think they say it with a smile.) It really is the first assignment I give out on the first day of school. And I continue to dole them out for 90% of the school weeks. I give it out on Mondays and it's due the following Monday. It used to be worth 10 points, but starting next year it'll be worth 6 points and I have a rubric to go with it. We take the first part of Monday to read the problem and clarify any questions students may have about what the problem is asking for, thus we cover that first step of "understand the problem."
I offer weekly help at lunch recess on the PS, students must come in on the day specified for their grade level. I teach 6th grade math, algebra, and geometry (to advanced 8th graders). When they are there, we work through the problem together, with me asking a lot of questions and just guiding them. The answer 90% of the time is figured out by the students who first came in without much of clue as to what to do.
I've collected enough POW over the years and I also subscribe to the MathForum's POW which has helped a lot. I guess that's how I've come across MathNEXUS because I'm always trying to stock up on POWs; one can never have enough!
Hope this helps. And thank you for your great site!
Anyone else want to weigh in with their opinions?
Hint: Why not send in your own responses to this dilemma?