Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Weekly POPS

Have you ever tossed a puzzle at one of your students? Y'know, the puzzles kids can play around with using their hands and minds? It's crazy, right?! It's fascinating to watch a student display a wide range of behaviors: curiosity, engagement, perseverance, frustration, and an earnest desire to know the solution if they get fatigued and stumped. I have a couple bins full of puzzles in my classrooms that do this to kids. Students rarely have a chance to play with them, but when they do, they go bonkers in a good way. Occasionally, you'll hear a triumphant yell when someone solves a puzzle. Other students look in disbelief. It's hilarious. My collection of puzzles ranges from the Bedlam Cube (now known as Crazee Cube), to Cannonball Pyramids, to the Rubik's Cube, to Tangrams, to ThinkFun puzzles, to other miscellaneous puzzles I've picked up over the years. A few weeks ago, I was driving home and wanted to know if there was something I could do in math that had a similar magical effect on kids.

Have you ever tossed a puzzle at one of your students? The ones on paper that require logic and critical thinking? Those are crazy too! Kids can really get into them. Around the same time I was thinking about the power of physical puzzles, my school wanted to revamp our weekly intervention/study-hall period. I thought students could benefit from working on logic puzzles, patterns, or Get to Ten. I went to a resource called The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems by Martin Gardner in which Fawn recommended. I came across this Billiard Balls gem in which I remade for my students:

So I got to thinking and thought of some inspirational people/things from my PLN. I've always wanted to incorporate Fawn's Visual Patterns into my classroom more, especially with it's beautiful new makeover. Fawn is also known for her weekly problem-solving tasks. I've also wanted to incorporate more PoWs from the Math Forum. The Math Forum has an abundance of problem-solving tasks that range in difficulty across grade levels. Sign up, yo! Last but not least, Dan Meyer had impeccable timing and recently wrote a very invigorating post on [Fake World] Conjectures that has created quite the buzz in the comments. Personally, he struck a chord with me as he ended it saying:
Find those puzzles in the real world, the fake world, the job world, or any other world - it doesn't matter.
His post and quote made my day (with a smile).

The result of all these crazy things: Weekly POPS.

POPS stands for:

  • Patterns (or puzzles like the Billiard Balls above)
  • Order of Operations (Get to 10 or Get to 24)
  • Problem-Solving

Patterns (or puzzles):
I will include a pattern either from Visual Patterns or one I create. As you can see from the handout below, it's similar to Fawn's form. I am adding a section for students to describe the pattern in their own words. If I decide not to do a pattern that week, I'll do some type of puzzle like the Billiard Ball puzzle above.
Order of Operations:
Students are to use the four given numbers and mathematical operations, symbols, and/or notations to get to the values of ten (or twenty-four). As you can see from the handout, students need to write the expression and evaluate it correctly using Order of Operations (or PEMDAS).
Problem-Solving:
Definitely one of the most important parts of the Weekly POPS, problem-solving. Right now, I'm finding old PoWs from the Math Forum's library to share with my students. As you can see from the handout, be sure to include the Math Forum's copyright information when photocopying. I'm looking for students to organize their work, demonstrate their solution strategy, and think critically.
My goal with Weekly POPS is to get students to really think critically and problem-solve. Why? because they so desperately need it. It's challenging, demanding, and necessary. There's a slight puzzle feel to POPS. Students have really been into it this week.

Students receive the POPS every Friday and have a week to complete it. They'll turn it in the following Friday and receive a new POPS. I've invested a lot of time in class this week going over my expectations, but will use Monday and Tuesday next week to show my classes student POPS that are exemplars, average, and sucky. I told them, "You earn a zero on your POPS, it's the same as POOPS."

I look forward to this adventure with my kids. Here's a folder with the POPS I've created so far. Feel free to join in the action. If this link is broken, please notify me and I'll fix it, unless your name is Fawn.

[UPDATE]: Check out Piles of Tiles that can be used in place of patterns. (12-27-2013)

POPS,
951


19 comments:

  1. You were doing so well until that last line. POOPS on you.

    Hey, this really is great, Andrew. I know this was your first week with POPS and you mentioned going over your expectations, but going forward, will you allow some class time for this, if so, how much time?

    I'm asking because both Erin (my colleague whom you met at CMC) and I are finding this year that the percent of kids turning in the math forum problems is lower and the quality of their write-ups is not up to par. I definitely need to revisit with them the rubric and show exemplars again. I also need to give them time in class to sink into the problem a bit. And we only do Math Forum POW every other week! (Math Munch is our other every other week.)

    Thanks so much for writing this up and sharing your resources, Andrew. You rock, my friend!

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    1. How'd that last line get in there? :P

      Having given it to students last Friday, I chipped away at it each day this week. By Wednesday, I quickly realized that reviewing expectations and time to work on it are two different things. Many students didn't make the time outside of class to work on it. Therefore, I spent a large part of Thursday allowing students time in class to work on POPS and receive feedback/guidance from me so I was receiving a better product on Friday. Realistically, I couldn't just fling this at my kids and expect them to do it on their own time. I noticed that they need class time to work on it. Therefore, I will make it a point to give them time maybe once or twice a week to work on it in class. It'll definitely be trial and error, but if they receive it on Friday and can start it in class, I'll probably give them additional time on Monday and Thursday of the following week.
      I'm interested to see what kind of descriptions I get. I expressed to my students that they need to write a description as if they were talking with a blind person. They'd need to be as specific and descriptive as possible. I'll have to check Math Munch again. Thanks for the reminder.

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  2. I think this is a great idea! I follow you on Twitter and think you have some really awesome things to share. I am in my 2nd year of teaching and love to embrace new ideas from others. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks Anessa. I appreciate you checking in and the kind words. Hope your second year is going well.

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  3. Another great idea, Andrew! I've been using Estiimation 180 with my kids and started Fawn's Math Talk routines. You two are awesome! I, too, am frustrated with the quality of work being done and realize I've got to model, model, model. I just spent HOURS looking at their solutions to a POW from the Math Forum from this week. I'm tired of writing the word EXPLAIN over and over. Kids are reluctant to write and think that I'm a mind reader of their scribbles and computations. EEK! Thanks for the inspiration, as always!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Valerie and for stopping in. You're right, modeling is important for students. Yesterday, I made a slideshow of student work from the first round of POPS to show students the range of quality they gave me. It's funny how critical they are of anonymous work, yet they don't treat their work with the same level of detail. I learned I need to give my students sentence starters for explanations. They don't know how to start and finish a complete thought. Therefore, I'll be giving them sentence starters for the next POPS and gradually wean students off of them.

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    2. Did the very same things this week with my kids. We made sentence starters to keep in their notebooks for "ratio talk." Sometimes I forget that they just don't have the vocabulary and the experience to put their thoughts together to say "For every 39 *****, there are 56*****."

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  4. What a great idea! I use a weekly warm-up sheet, but the kids don't work on the problems at all :-( They simply wait for someone to work it out.
    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hope it works out, Cori. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

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  5. Hi Andrew,

    My colleagues and I have just started teaching using a blended learning/flipped/self-paced middle school math class and are loving it. We have been incorporating logic puzzles into their weekly routine, and seeing some of the puzzles you have have given me some ideas for our classes. One thing I had a question about... How do you use the score (0-4) at the bottom of each Weekly POPS?

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    1. The rubric is a work in progress still as I tinker with it.
      Patterns: I've been doing a point each for the correct drawings, correct table, correct formula, and an accurate/comprehensible description.
      Get to Ten: 4 follows the rules. 3, they didn't write a single expression, but showed how to get to ten.
      Problem-solving: 4 is accurate and all work/thinking is demonstrated. 3: they were extremely close and showed all work/thinking.
      Any point distribution I didn't mention is because I'm still tinkering with it.

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  6. I too do fun Fridays with my students and its all puzzle based. I have been doing this for three years in my high school geometry classes and its the best method for teaching problem solving skills that I have found. Each Friday they are given a puzzle, or a collection of mini logic problems, etc. And they have one week to complete the assignment. I have found that the puzzles that included hands on manipulatives such as paper folding really seems to engage the entire student body. I have students that I have never seen coming up to me asking for guidance on the puzzle and its not even their assignment. We dedicate every Friday to work on the puzzle in class, then they have one week to complete it on their own. Grades are based on quality of work not necessarily if they found the solution. I love giving problems that require the student to investigate other subjects not just math inorder to find a solution.

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    1. Love it! Thanks for sharing Jimmy!

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    2. That's cool when students from other classes are getting excited about what your students are doing!

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  7. Love it... You still keeping up with it?

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    1. Yup! Still keeping up. They're getting better and better at the patterns and Get to Tens. Problem-solving is a struggle still. It's a work in progress, but I'm extremely happy to see growth. That was a goal!

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  8. My kids have now done POPS for 2 weeks. They love it! They only get a little class time to work on it, but this is the first assignment all year that I've had 100% completion on!
    Thanks for the brilliant idea!

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  9. My kids love POPS! For three weeks, I've had 98% of them turning the assignment in on time, which is just unheard of for this crew! I've run into a problem though. What in the world is the equation for the pattern on the 3rd week? I know I'm looking at it wrong, but I just cannot seem to wrap my head around it!
    Thanks.

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  10. Hey Mr. Stadel, was referred here by DKane's 5-12-13 blog. Looks like your POPS link has pooped out. Do you mind updating the link? Would love to give this a shot with my kids.

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