For Teachers and Parents

As an elementary classroom teacher, I've been facilitating math and science problem solving for as long as I can remember. The power of student learning has always been most evident during the share sessions--when students shared their thinking and their learning about the process of problem solving.

Early on in my science teaching,  I found that my students were just going through the motions of science. So many "activities" took kids through the steps of answering a question but took all the mess and fun out of problem solving.  So often the mess figuring out how to solve the problem, how to collect data and how to organize data was all part of a predetermined template. I learned early in my teaching career that if I took those templates away, kids created things well beyond what I could have imagined and became amazing scientists and mathematicians.

I also discovered that when I let go of some of my content goals, I was able to focus more on powerful math and science process as well as visual literacy. These once-a-month challenges helped me to be strategic on the visual literacy skills my students were developing over the course of the school year.

The questions I post here will be questions I've assigned to my students for homework over the last several years. The questions worked whether I taught 5 year olds or 12 year olds.  I choose give them as homework because I think the family connection is an important one. The conversations that happen as families decide on how to approach a problem are the conversations that make for great homework!

The science and math based questions are open ended with lots of room for conversations.  They are designed that way so that conversations about variables and other things come up naturally in the share conversation. Each time we come back together, I am amazed at the different ways in which students approach these problems and the things they discover on their own.  They are also fun questions to go back and revisit later in the year, thinking through how we would approach them differently now that we have so many more strategies.

This year, I decided it would be fun to grow our classroom activity a bit and invite others into the rich conversations we will hopefully have. On the first day of each month, I'll post a new question. It will be  a science/math question with lots of ways in for elementary students who are interested in some fun problem solving at home or in the classroom.  You can share student work by linking to the post before the next one is posted. You can include individual student work, classroom charts, tables, graphs, photos, videos, slideshows...anything that comes from the problem solving.  Checking back periodically, you can see how others outside of your classroom are approaching the problems.

What did you learn from someone else?

What would you do differently if you were going to do this again?
What are some other ways to collect and organize data for this specific problem?
What would we have to do differently if we wanted to compare our results with each other?
What did you learn today that might change something you do next time?
What did you learn about yourself as a learner?

Don't wait for us!  This is just a start to help us share globally about leaning the power of sharing our problem solving strategies beyond our classroom walls.

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