Wednesday, November 21, 2012

RICH Problems: Thanksgiving Table

I am extremely fortunate to be teaching in a district that is forward thinking in their training of their teachers for the CCSS.  We are able to attend professional development once a month (once a month!!!) in the area of Math and English Language Arts.  Even though I currently only teach math, as schools are constantly changing, so are teaching positions, and there may come a time where I will be teaching L.A., also.  I am so thankful that I will be prepared if that day comes!

Because the meetings are monthly, we are able to apply what we are learning about Common Core to the concepts we are currently teaching.  We have been told to continue to teach the Ohio Academic Content Standards, while slowly implementing Common Core where appropriate.  I, for one, love this approach.  I feel I will be better prepared to fully implement Common Core when the time comes.  

One thing we discuss during our meetings are RICH problems: mathematically rich problems that challenge students to investigate math problems and empower them to use their knowledge to come up with different solutions.  These problems also force students to apply the CCSS Mathematical Practice Standards.  We solve the problems ourselves during our meetings and create posters just as our students would be expected to do.  It's a great way to show that even adults come up with varying solutions to the same problem.  We then implement these problems in our classrooms and report back on our results.  

Here is the most recent problem we did in honor of Thanksgiving.  It is aptly named "The Thanksgiving Table Problem."  

 Because we just learned multiplication, this problem really seemed quite perfect.  It forced students to look at numbers based on place value.  They used base-ten blocks to "build" a table with the dimensions of 13 ft x 7 feet and were asked how many ten ft. boards and one ft. boards were used to construct the table.  Students used longs and cubes to create their table, and in doing so, created an area model for 7 x 13.  We have just begun discussing the distributive property, and this was a great way to apply it!  Students saw that they would need seven 10 ft. boards and 21 one ft. boards: 7 (10 + 3).  

One group building their table using base-ten blocks

The beauty of RICH problems is that there are many parts using many different forms of math.  Students complete what they can and can delve further and further into the problem.  The next part of the problem had the students deciding if they needed to add more square footage to make a 100 sq. foot table (the original was only 91 sq. ft.).  They all concluded they needed 9 more sq. ft., but quickly realized that would make their table odd looking: it was no longer a rectangle.  Most groups decided that they would add a few more square feet to either the length or width to ensure the table was at least 100 sq. feet.  

The next task had them calculating the price of their add on, then figuring out if there was a cheaper way to add on to their table.  Here are some of the finished products:

This group did a fantastic job of displaying their information!  They showed their add-on as well as all the math they did to come up with the price of the add-on. 

Love their organization and clear answers!

This particular problem applies many of the CCSS Mathematical Practice Standards:

1. Making sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
4. Model with mathematics.
5. Use appropriate tools strategically.

At the end, each group was able to present their findings.  They really seem to be getting better at doing group work and including all members (this is something we have REALLY been practicing!).  Overall, I would say the problem was a huge success.  I will choose some projects to take with me to my next CCSS meeting next week to share with the other 5th grade teachers in the district.   

A great website for RICH problems is the Ohio Resource Center.  I will follow up with a post about more of the RICH problems we do from this website called "Stella's Stunners".  They are WONDERFUL!

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