Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

#probchat: A chat about teaching with “non-routine” problems

Before I get into what #probchat, I’ll talk about how it started:

I was looking through the many math education related chats out there, focused on teaching with problems.  After a trail of conversation longer than I’ve ever been a part of on Twitter, a couple things became clear. A) This doesn’t exist, and B) A lot of people would be interested if it did. So I thought about it, and decided I should do my part to make this exist, even if that means I am the ‘guy’ or whatever. Now how does one get one of these started?

So I guess if I follow @bkdidact’s advice, I could just get this started. But first I think some basic questiosn need to be ansered.

The biggest question about the chat is probably “what is a “non routine” problem?” Well, it’s certainly not a problem with only one emphasized solution strategy. It’s also a problem that must give students a chance to grapple with mathematical concepts, so problems like the jackal and the coyote may not be appropriate. I like to imagine that it’s a problem that Magdalene Lampert would teach at Spartan Village elementary, during a video I saw in my undergrad teaching program. It’s also a problem that can inspire a long conversation. It could loosely be defined as problems that would appear on nrich and perhaps be taught in a manner consistent with the people at the math forum.

What are we going to chat about?
Problems will be given out a head of time, so people have time to think about solutions.  We can talk about solving the problem, gathering multiple solution strategies, understand how the problem could be discussed in different classes, and among different levels of content exposure and understanding. Students who are working on different grade levels and who have different prior knowlege can approach each task with different levels of depth, which we can set out.  The structure of the chat is fluid and will change over time as we work through problems more and learn more about how share thinking over the internet. The 5 practices can form a good structure for much of the discussion about the teaching of these problems. When the chat is finished, participants should have everything they need to have a rich conversation about the problem if they decide to teach it (and perhaps they can share their results!).

So that’s the idea.  #probchat!  We’ll talk about problems every Sunday at 9.  Problems will be posted ahead of time and we’ll see what happens.  We’ll kick things off with a post-Valentine’s session on Sunday February 15th, and keep it going weekly from there.

One thing that will be valuable will be very interesting problems.  I will try my best to facilitate, but I certainly have a narrow pool of problems to pull from.  It would be better for everyone if members of the #mtbos contribute interesting and conversation-provoking problems as often as possible.

Big thanks to everyone who chimed on twitter. Hopefully we’ll hear from    @j_lanier @melomania at the chat, and in helping provide problems to discuss.  And if anyone wants to give me any kind of feedback or advice about this whole thing please feel free to let me know in the comments.

Edit: Thanks for the pre-emptive shout out Andrew!

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3 Comments

  1. “Sundays at 9”

    The world has more than 24 time zones, so “9” is somewhat ambiguous.

    • c2cmathed_webmaster

      Oops, I mean 9 EST. I guess I’m not used to thinking that people around the world are going to be interested in what I’m doing.

  2. Ellie

    I just used an nrich problem structure called “wipeout” in order for students to develop a deeper understanding of means. It was great! http://nrich.maths.org/10996

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