After watching Dan Meyer's TED Talk Math Class Needs a Make-Over, I couldn't get out of my mind the part where he shows a problem from a text book and then visually strips away all the elements until he's down to the graphic.
What would happen, we wondered, if we took apart a problem like that and then asked the kids to put it back together? We decided to take a grade 4 PARCC prototype, remove the question and some of the information, and present it to the kids as, well, just what it was: an incomplete question.
We asked them to imagine what the question might be. They brainstormed some ideas in their notebooks, and then got together in groups to put down some of their questions on chart paper. Some were basic and pretty much what we expected. But many were complex and needed additional information, supplied by the kids, in order to solve. This was something we did not anticipate, but once it started the floodgates opened and all this math just started pouring out!
|Some of the original questions. They were first posted in the room; later they went up on a bulletin board.|
Again, they were asked to take a guess as to what the question might be. They started getting closer.
|Here's an example from the second go-around.|
Finally we gave them the whole thing:
|They went to work immediately. They had spent so much time with the task they had internalized its parameters.|
When all was said and done, we agreed that it was a very productive problem-solving experience. It had a low barrier to entry, it scaled both horizontally and vertically, and had a high engagement level. Shannon and I agreed that one of the reasons for that was because of the student-centered nature of the project. The questions were created by the kids, and they had freedom to decide which ones they wanted to tackle. Kudos to Shannon for turning her class into a "math lab" and for using the lesson again this year with a new group of fourth graders. Any help with a "jargonless" name to describe this activity?