Problem of the Week, # 4

Happy Monday! This will be short and sweet:-)

In this week's problem, students are given 2 scenarios and are asked to write an "order of operations" expression to match each scenario. They are then asked to find the solution to the problem, by evaluating the expression they wrote.

Have a great week!

Click to download the problem.
If you missed the previous weeks, check them out:  Week 1
                                                                                 Week 2
                                                                                 Week 3


Playing Exponent War

We played a little "exponent war"
today, inspired by a couple of pins I saw on Pinterest. I made a recording sheet, for each partner to record their exponential form and its value.

Click to download recording sheet.
I haven't allowed the students to use calculators to find the values of exponential expressions up to this point, but I did allow them to use them for this, because some of the numbers end up being so big! (We used the jacks, queens, and kings as 11, 12, and 13.) In my first class, we found that the calculator converted the values of expressions with large bases and large exponents to scientific notation. In my other classes, I explained the basics of scientific notation to the students before they began the activity and suggested that they might want to stick with bases and exponents less than 9. (My students haven't worked with scientific notation yet, but if they had, it would have been great to integrate that knowledge into the activity). 

The students really enjoyed the activity and it was interesting to listen to their comments about how they knew which one was larger before they actually calculated the values. They want to play a little longer tomorrow!


Problem of the Week # 3

This week's problem asks students to calculate a number of friendship bracelets that can be created, given the length needed for each bracelet and the amount of thread available. Students are then asked to figure out profit. Enjoy!
Click to download the problem.
If you missed weeks 1 and 2, check them out:  Week 1
                                                                        Week 2


New Video Blog Posts

There are some great new video blog posts on our Tools for Teaching Teens Site - a great variety of interesting information! Hope you'll check it out:-)


Beach Ball Math Fun

I don't think I can fit all 12 beach balls - but I may try!
I know lots of people use beach balls in the classroom, but I haven't used them in such a long time that I thought I'd share my excitement about finally getting around to getting new ones! I have a little bit of a beach theme in my room this year, so that motivated me to get some beach balls again. I ordered a pack of 12 and am writing different math skills practice on them - so far I have multiplication facts, exponents, fraction/decimal conversions, and common measurement conversions. I have 12 beach balls to fill with math, so I need to decide on more topics. I think I'll do square roots, division facts, math vocabulary...I need to keep thinking:-)

Palm tree w/math practices - word wall will be to the right.
Our math classes aren't that long, but I figure I can squeeze in 5 minutes at the end of class once or twice a week to toss the beach balls around for some quick facts. With so many different beach balls, I could even differentiate and have 3 groups tossing at a time, depending on their needs!

Do you use beach balls - if so, how?


Problem of the Week, # 2

I used this week's problem in class today (6th grade), for early finishers. Because we haven't gotten too "into" a particular topic, I made the problem a mix of operations - mostly division and multiplication, but I saw students using addition as well.

I really enjoy talking with my students about what they are thinking when they try to solve problems, for a few reasons - because 1) they think about problems in a different way than I do; 2) it makes me rethink the wording of the questions I ask (which makes me improve); and 3) I learn that there will be several ideas to share with class.

I noticed a few different things when the students were solving the different parts of this week's problem:
For part A, I multiplied 85 times 3 to get the total number of cookies and then divided by 24 (when I wrote the problem, I wanted the students to have to interpret the quotient, so I approached it with a desire to use division). And most students did the same thing (except for the few that multiplied 24 x 3 - that gave me some good info: -), but one student was just sitting and thinking, so I asked him what he was thinking. He started to say he divided 24 by 3 and then paused - I almost interrupted his thinking to redirect him to my way, but I successfully restrained myself, and asked why. He said he was thinking about how many baggies could be filled with one batch, and since the numbers worked nicely, he could definitely say that one batch would fill 8 baggies. I really liked his thinking process, because it hadn't occurred to me to do it that way. Now, if the numbers hadn't worked out evenly, it might not have been the best approach, but we can expand our class discussion to explore that. After deciding he could fill 8 baggies per batch, he added on sets of 8 until he reached the correct number of batches.

As some students worked on part C (below), I started to think that I should adjust the wording of the problem. When I wrote the problem, I thought it would be clear that the number of cookies for part C was the same as part A, but some students thought of the part C as using 85 baggies of 2 cookies (same number of baggies), instead of using the same number of cookies. As more students worked on it though, other students seemed to understand that the number of cookies should be the same as the original number they were working with, so I haven't changed it yet. If you use the problem, please let me know what you think.

Again, a few students approached this part in a different way than I did - they said that in both cases, the cookies cost 25 cents each. Using this reasoning, some students said the cost was the same, while others did not - again, a great opportunity for discussion, both in small groups and as a whole class.

To see and/or use the entire problem and answer key, click on the link below the picture.

Click here to download problem.

If you haven't downloaded last week's problem, check it out here.

Have a great week!

Problem of the Week, # 1

As always (for me), it's so hard to believe that it's the beginning of another school year!

One of my needs for the school year is to continue adding more problem solving to our weekly math work, so to help keep myself on track with creating new problems, I am starting a "Problem of the Week" blog post. Each week, on Sunday or Monday, I will share the latest problem I've written, along with the solution.

In using these problems with my classes, I have students work alone for 5-7 minutes, recording any thoughts and/or math work on their own papers. Then they discuss their thoughts (and solutions if they have any) with a small group of 2-3 students and collaborate to find agreement about the solutions.

This week's problem deals with exponents. After solving, the students might be surprised by how quickly an amount of money increases as it's doubled again and again. This can lead to a great discussion about exponential growth!
Click here to download problem.
If you use these problems in different ways, I'd love to hear about it!
If you have any trouble downloading the problem, feel free to email me at, and I can send it to you:-)



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