Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back-to-School Problem Solving

September is a great time for data collection activities as students are naturally curious about their new classmates. Ask questions that require students to analyze data and support their conclusions.

Challenge students to solve some of these problems to practice collecting, organizing and analyzing data in real-life applications. Require students to explain their reasoning and solution to develop mathematical communication skills.

Here's a sample 3rd grade problem that targets student understanding of probability:

Third graders cut apart each of the letters in THIRD GRADERS and place
the squares in a bag. Kevin pulls out one square and looks at the letter.

  • What is the probability that the letter he pulls out will be the letter, D?  Explain how you know.
  • What is the probability that the letter he pulls out will be S?  Explain.
  • On Friday, his teacher says that if anyone can correctly predict which tile he or she will pull out the bag of THIRD GRADERS squares, the class will not have any homework over the weekend.  She asks Kevin's table to predict for the class.  They are nervous because the class is counting on them to say the right letter.
    •  Which letter should Kevin’s team predict that they will pull from the bag?
    •  Explain how you know that the students should predict this letter.
Note:  It is very important that students explain how they know their answers are correct.  They may use pictures, words and numbers to explain their thinking.

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