Holiday Cookie Problem Solving…Is there a better way to do it?

As you may  know, my students LOVE open ended problem solving….and so do I!  As I introduce each open ended “Thinker Task”, I try to focus on at least one Standard for Mathematical Practice.  For this one, I talked to my students about finding ways to organize their work, to look for patterns, and to find multiple solutions.  I really want them to start to find their own ways of digging into problems and organizing their work–not waiting for a chart or a fill in the blank math sheet.
This task is the PERFECT fit for our fraction studies because in addition to having multiple solutions, it requires some basic work with equivalent fractions and the addition of mixed numbers.  I challenged my students to first find ONE solution, and then to go back and see if they could solve the problem a new way–and to get MORE cookies from their ingredients.  This was new for some of my students who are used to getting math done quickly–and getting it done well.
When I posed the question, “Are you SURE that there are no solutions that are better?” They were stumped.  They really had no way of knowing if there was a better way–so off they went to try to find better ways to show their work and to look for patterns in what they had done.
The “math by the numbers”!  A vital part of the task…
The digging in begins!  It’s so fun to watch how differently each student/group tackles the beginning stages of these thinker tasks!
This group overheard me telling another group about how labels can really help organize your work…I peeked over and saw them begin to organize their work with labels.
I love the technique of drawing lines through two “halves’ to represent a whole.  One student said, “Hey!  This is kind of like regrouping tens.”  Yes.  Yes it is.
I loved how some grabbed graph paper and started making charts.  Some started arguing with each other about the math.  Some even consulted with other groups to see what they might be missing.  I loved it!
We are just two days into the challenge, and some students are really taking off–but others are needing a little probing to dig in and really push their thinking.  Those bright kiddos are sure used to getting the right answer instantly, aren’t they?  I can’t wait to see how far they take this one over the next week…I think we may have to celebrate with some cookies of our own!
Want to see more details about this project?
Or the bundle of all 7 of them!
Have a great weekend!