Problem solving with a twist

Guy Picard

Math Teacher, Secondary 3 and 4, Quebec, Canada


Why should I work alone

A lot of students will tell you that solving math problems isn’t always easy and fun...


Sometimes you get blocked, sometimes you don’t know where to start, and sometimes you just don’t know!!! 


Also, a lot of teachers will tell you that when students are working in groups, not all of them will participate.


I recently found an interesting solution to the above -- #VNPS and Wipebook Flipcharts.  So I got 5 of them and pinned them on the walls around my classroom as an experiment.



The #VNPS activity

Here’s what I proposed to my students: I formed 6 teams, each team having a different problem to solve. I then asked them to pay attention to their approach, especially the way they write down the answer to their specific problem.


My students first took about 2-3 minutes to read the problem. Then, they talked about it (discussed potential solutions) for another 2 minutes within their group, and then they jumped into finding a viable solution.


END RESULT:  a WHOLE LOT of great math discussion FROM all around the classroom.



Traces and problem solving with a twist

I then added a another twist: After 10 minutes, I stopped everything even though it was far from being enough time to solve any of the 6 problems I gave initially.


I then asked the teams to turn counter-clockwise and AND THEN start solving the new adjacent problem.  Each team was now in front of an already started problem that they had to read, understand, and then subsequently finish the work on.


In essence each team was now left to work with "traces" left by the team adjacent to them.



Collaborative work and #VNPS

By using #VNPS and #VGR, as a teacher, I’ve been able to essentially efficiently facilitate ALL of my problem solving teams and listen to the group conversations. It was also very easy for me to guide individual team members when difficulties were encountered. With all the "traces" left on the partnering surfaces, I was able to see where the difficulties were and which team needed my help the most because ALL of the classroom work was visible.


Interesting enough

Interesting enough I discovered that the students really loved to sink their teeth  into this type of problem solving process. 


My students even asked me to buy some more Wipebook Flipcharts because they would like to use in other classes...


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