BrainTree Challenge

Posted: October 11, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about how to get more pizzazz in math. We use the University of Chicago Everyday Mathematics program and it has some good problem solving activities in it. However, some of them lead to too much silliness and I skip them. A few days ago I used one of them as an extension activity when some students had finished their work. It was a very popular lesson and it reminded me how much the kids like some of those goofy activities and that there is plenty of math involved.

Then a few nights later I found myself creating just such an activity. I had planned for the Unit test, however, when we finished our review I surveyed the class and there are a handful of students who said they were not ready. That meant I needed a bunch of options for class on Friday. We had a few things to finish in the math journals, but after that there was a list of options:

  • Work on math box pages (these are mixed review/preview pages after each lesson which we don’t always finish)
  • Problem solving/estimation worksheets (I know hardly exciting sounding, but good problems and some kids chose it)
  • Logic and other problems solving type questions in a packet
  • More test review with me
  • BrainTree Challenge (group activity, how many miles or kilometers is it from our school to the BrainTree School in Uganda, how much would it cost to get there, and what is the cost per mile/kilometer)

I thought that everyone but the test review crowd would go for the BrainTree Challenge. But, not so. There were a number of kids who wanted to work on more straightforward math problems than the more free-ranging BrainTree Challenge. However, those who did work on it loved it.

I had broken down the trip into legs with guiding questions. Students could search and use the web, but could not just google “how far is it from x to y”. They had their choice of modes of travel. Some went for cheap and direct. They even decided to use a bicycle to get to the airport. Another group wanted luxury. They were on the Amtrak Acela train and then took a transatlantic cruise on Cunard. There was definitely plenty of time not exactly spent doing calculations, but the practice with effective searching and working together was an added bonus.

There is nothing like overhearing students tell each other how much fun something is when it’s also a good learning experience. A great end to the week and a good reminder to bring some sparkle to math.

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