Why is it that some problems are more engaging than others? You know the kind I'm talking about...the kind where kids WANT to work through Recess..the kind where the kids CONTINUE to solve it while you're trying to 'move on'...the kind that has kids ASKING for more...the kind that has kids TALKING about it with their classmates.
The other day I stumbled upon one of these types of problems. I subscribe to Marilyn Burns Math Blog as she is a math guru and seems to have wonderful ideas and practical resources regarding math. The actual post was titled "When Should or Shouldn't We Give Answers?" In the post she shares the "1 to 10 Card Investigation" (Read her original post about it here.) I was actually intrigued by the problem.
So during math class, I mentioned the post to my students. I happened to say that I DID NOT know the answer to the Card Investigation myself. This seemed to be a challenge they wanted to take on so I showed them Marilyn's video about how to set up the cards. When my homeroom students returned before lunch, their classmates mentioned the challenge to them. I shared the video once again (quickly) before we headed to the cafeteria. I had no idea how it would take off. The kids were abuzz about this problem. (One student even made her own set of 1-10 from index cards!)
|Helping a classmate|
To my surprise, students went home that evening and worked on the problem (without direction from me to do so). A few came in with the problem solved while others were "soooo" close to the solution. Really, the only direction I gave them was that they should be keeping track of their trials (as Marilyn Burns suggested). Again, the students wanted to work on this problem throughout the day. Students who were successful got the extension activity that Marilyn had suggested.
|Recording each trial|
All of this is wonderful, but it makes me ask the question again, "Why is it some problems are more engaging than others?" I asked my students why they loved this problem. Some of the responses included "It's fun!" "It's challenging." "I like cards!" Could it be that they felt comfortable with the using smaller numbers? Or was it because they thought it was a "trick?" Or was it simply they like using the cards?
I would love to hear your ideas on what types of problems 'hook' your students and I'd love to learn how we find more of these types of problems that help our students learn?