Each Sunday night I have been hosting #probchat, a chat about teaching with non-routine problems. This weekly twitter conversation has been a great learning experience for me, even on night’s like tonight when there isn’t always a good turn out (thanks a lot, #superbloodmoon). Since the chat is empty tonight, let’s take a minute to take some time to reflect on where it’s been, and where it’s going.
Category: Problem Chat
Before I get into what #probchat, I’ll talk about how it started:
Is there a twitter chat for people who try to teach with non-routine problems and lots of class discussion?
— Carl Oliver (@carloliwitter) February 9, 2015
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?
— Andrew Gael (@bkdidact) February 9, 2015
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!).
How would people feel about #probchat, a chat about non-routine problems, happening on Sundays at 9?
— Carl Oliver (@carloliwitter) February 10, 2015
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
@davidwees @maxmathforum @bkdidact @Veganmathbeagle @nrichmaths @BridgetDunbar @Mythagon @MFAnnie @SuMACzanne @themathforum @mpershan @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!