#TMC12 Problem Solving

During our first morning session, we worked on Exeter Academy problems. I chose Math I which is mostly Algebra I. We basically just sat there and worked problems and stopped to discuss/brainstorm after each page.

Here are some notes I took on the idea of problem solving in general:

Students have trouble organizing and labeling information.

Students aren't familiar enough with measurements to easily make conversions.

'Spaghetti' method: don't mix the the noodles and the sauce in the pot. Keep them separate until you know how much you need. Analogy: don't mix all the information together. Keep things separate until you know what you need.

Write answers in [complete] sentence form to alert students to things that don't make sense.

Relate non-integer [messy/ugly] answers to the check out. How often does the register come up with exactly $20.00?

What numbers can we substitute into the concepts we already teach to make them richer?

Start the year with students making and writing down observations [from videos, demonstrations, measurements, charts, photos, rhythms, etc]. Compare answers. Think out loud. Uncover assumptions students make when translating from reading and translating to writing.

I know that's not much but it's what stuck out to me and what I've been ruminating (ooh I'm such a scholar) on.

Exeter Math 1 Problems I want to try in class: Page 1: 7, 8, 10,11 Page 2: 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 Page 20: 4, 8 Page 22: 1, 2,  Page 80: 2


  1. I only discovered the Exeter Academy problem sets recently. Have you used any of the Math I problems in your classes?

  2. Rich,
    I have only used a couple. As we went through about 9 pages during this conference, I marked some I intend to try this year. I'm sure I will blog about it if I do.

    Exeter Academy is a private school and you can definitely google them for more info. What sets them apart is "a method of teaching unique to Exeter and central to its teaching philosophy. The Harkness plan calls for an oval table in each classroom, with class size averaging 12 students and ample opportunity for dialogue."

    Basically in math they have 90 pages of math problems that continuously build and spiral. Students do a page a night for homework (about 8-9 problems) and then each student presents a problem on the board and the class discusses. Definitely different than the traditional model. Very interesting.

    We split into groups for Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3 and just worked the problems out ourselves and discussed what we liked and would use in the classroom.