Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Apropos Problem-Solving

For my lesson this morning, I tried something I don't normally do - write questions the students need to answer before any teaching.

Bit of Background
I haven't seen my year 7 maths class for nearly a week, not counting yesterday which was used for a common spreadsheet assessment. I thought they needed something to remind them of the last lesson - division of decimals, capping off operations on decimals.

Lesson Today
I put up 8 questions on operations, 4 with whole numbers and 4 with decimals. Interestingly, none of them picked up that I actually used the same digits for the same operations - until I asked if they can see a pattern. That is, they really didn't need to 'calculate' twice ... but they did! Far from a gimmick, I really wanted to contrast operations on whole numbers and decimals with the hope that they will see they are building on previous knowledge (applied connectionism).

I also had a problem-solving question:
"Shop 1 is having a 15% off store-wide sale. CD1 normally costs $20 in that shop. Shop 2 is selling the same CD for $16.95. Show which shop is selling the CD cheaper and by how much." ...names have been changed
This problem provided teaching-learning opportunities for:
  1. Rounding (topic for the day, in fact)
  2. Discounting (percentage of a quantity)
  3. Smart-shopping (comparing prices)
  4. Justifying answers
Of course, the difference is only 5 cents which many students felt was not worthwhile going to shop 2 for but that's another matter altogether.

All up,the class was engaged and on-task - on a period 1 lesson at that. While this 'start' took longer than the anticipated 15-minutes due to pursued opportunities, I couldn't have asked for a better way to do this topic. I will certainly try to create more of such opportunities for connectionism and engagement. Finding a problem that's not only relevant and meaningful can be tricky but certainly worthwhile.

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