### Let’s talk problem solving!

Let’s face it. Sometimes students look at you while your teaching and you can read their minds.

**“Why in the world are we doing this?”**

And in their defense…when they are filling out worksheets or pages of a math workbook, it’s easy to lose the “real world” in the math and focus instead on the answers in the boxes. Whenever humanly possible, I try to make math meaningful to my students…whether it be by inserting their names into word problems, using math to solve problems around the class, or showcasing cool “math stuff” I come across in my own life. Today I wanted to share a super cool math experience I had with my students and see if it inspires you!

So this week it was my birthday. I am NOT a fan of my birthday–although I had fun last year with my students because my age had so many factors….1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 18, 24, and 48. This year? Nothing mathematically “cool” so I decided to make them WORK for their cake

### Mathematicians Ask Questions

**“A farmer has 3 chickens, 6 cows, and 4 horses….”**

So with a slightly big production, I wheeled a birthday cake into the classroom. As you can imagine, shrieks of delight filled the room followed by, **“Can we eat it?” **My students are a chip off the old block, that’s for sure!

I explained to the students that we could, indeed, eat it–once we had answered some math questions about it first. At first I thought there might be groans, but I got an overwhelming feeling of “Game on!” from the class. I started by asking them to brainstorm what questions they thought I would ask about the cake. (Then I clarified that I meant what MATH questions!) and the list began.

### Real World, Hands-On Problem Solving

### Working on the Standards for Mathematical Practice

*1. Find the area and perimeter of the top surface of the cake.*

*2. What would be the best way to cut the cake to serve our entire class (use diagrams and words)*

*3. What would be the best way to cut the cake to serve our whole grade level (use diagrams and words) (BOY was THIS one interesting when students realized that they needed to figure out how many students were in the grade level. #onegroupcountedlockers)*

*4. What is the surface area of the cake?*

As they solved each challenge and could show me their thinking and defend their solution, I sent them to collect the card from the next envelope. All groups made it through task 2–and several groups did more. So what did that mean?

### The Eye on the Prize!

**DIGITAL ACCESS**for maximum flexibility. Want to read more?

**CLICK HERE**to see a blog post with more implementation ideas.

Finally, these 7 project-based learning experiences are far more in depth, are differentiated, and get students really engaged in the problem-solving process. The idea of asking math questions is a part of this resource and there is a huge list of real-world extension ideas included with each one. See what you think–and now they all include** DIGITAL ACCESS** as well!