# We love problem-solving. Seriously!

OK…I came out of math class so excited today.  I know I’ve posted a TON about problem-solving and setting the stage for perseverance and teamwork–but today I really saw it in action.  You may have seen some of my “Open Ended” challenges…the amusement park problem…the holiday cookie challenge…the Thanksgiving challenge.

### More Problem Solving?  Yes, Indeed!

My students were begging me for another one, so over winter break, I decided to think ahead and make one for this time of year. These take me a long time to make, so I can’t just whip one up at the last minute!  When I broke out the colored sheets and waved them today I literally got CHEERS.  That’s right.  My kids CHEERED about a challenging math task.  My day was complete.  I thought I’d share a few pictures from our first day on the challenge.  Now here is how I use these.  The first one we did in pairs but AS A CLASS as a replacement for the regular lesson.  We spent two full days on it, had discussions in groups and as a whole class, did troubleshooting together, and so on.
The Thanksgiving problem was done as an enrichment task; I had about half of my class who needed less practice on the skills we were doing at the time, so I gave them that task to work on in partners when the regular lesson was over.

### Valentine’s Day Math Problem Solving

This problem is similar.  We are moving into our large multiplication unit and some students pick up on it SO much faster than others.  To make sure they have meaningful work to do, I gave them this challenge to work on after the lesson and their independent practice is done.  While the students are working, I can pull small groups for multiplication AND can coach on this task if needed–but my students really like to work without me.  It’s kind of a pride thing. No worries, right?!
To demonstrate, here are a few pictures of our first day.  These tasks just make me happy.  They can be differentiated.  I love that they can be done in their entirety or just part of it (so EVERYONE can work on it–some will just get farther!).  They can be printed in just black and white OR you can make the data sheets in color.  My students really like having the laminated cards to refer to but they are totally unnecessary.  Each student has a black and white version of the information, and then I have about 8 of the colored sheets floating around so students don’t need to flip back and forth in their packets.  Today students had about 30 minutes to work and when the recess bell rang, they asked if they could take it outside with clipboards.  I’m not even kidding!

### Differentiation is So Easy

This picture shows the “modified” task.  I had about a half dozen students who wanted to try the problem first with easier numbers.  No problem–I gave them that “Math by the Numbers” sheet and they were ready to go.  I told them that when they finished, they might want to try the more challenging version to see how it felt.

 Sorry for the glare…this was a student ADAMANTLY arguing her point with her partner.  They were having a discussion about the value of the different sized packages of cookies.  This student won.
 Here is a pair just getting started.  Although I had previewed the task with the class, they went back and reread it carefully and talked through the scenario.  You might not be able to tell…but this partnership actually has BOTH levels of challenge and are still working together.  LOVE!!!
 This group absolutely loves these challenges.  They are on a quest to do the best, most organized work of anyone–thus the ruler to make organized tables in their math notebooks!

We have easily another few days of work on the project, but I am excited to see what my students come up with!  There are tons of extensions and differentiated practice sheets too.  We should be all set until Valentine’s Day!
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