Working With Math Fair Problems

Day 1: Introduce the Basic Problems to the Students

  • Prepare and set up 5 stations with a different problem at each station. Have teams of students work through the problems in a team.
  • NOTE: If this would not work for your students, work through one of the problems first with the whole class and then put them into stations.

Day 2: Learning the Problems

  • Start the day by having students from each group explain the problem they were working on. Have the students explain what was intriguing about each problem, what they had already figured out and what seemed to be confusing. Do NOT let the students jump to solutions.
  • Have the students move to a second station to try a second problem. (You are building the capacity of the group to figure out some of the math processes they are bringing to bear in each to mathematical reasoning without jumping to answers.)

Day 3: Prepare to Teach Each Other

  • Repeat the start of Day 2.
  • Have the students choose their favorite of the two problems and prepare the problem for another student in the class. Their job will be to solve the problem they have selected and make it interesting for another student in their class who has not yet had exposure to that problem. They will need to figure out the best way to solve the problem, how to make it interesting and accessible to another person. They will have to decide what manipulatives to make to this problem both interesting and accessible.

Day 4: Deconstruct the Learning

  • Review each of the problems with the students.
  • Compare and analyze the various solutions.
  • Discuss the forms of reasoning students brought to the problems.
  • Have students discuss various extensions there might be to the problems. How could the problem be made easier? How could it be made more difficult?

Advantages for students

  • Math for real purpose, for a real audience
  • Improves problem solving skills
  • Improves mathematical reasoning
  • Improves mathematical communication
  • Improves perseverance
  • Dispels fear of math
  • Motivates
  • Engages


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