Concrete Representations that Give Students a Way to Get Started

This blog post is the third in a series of four blog posts exploring the student experience of problem-based learning. The first two posts are available here: “How Do Students Perceive Problem-Based Learning?” and “Inviting Students to the Mathematics.”

Once students have an invitation to the mathematics and understand the situation, how do they get started answering questions?

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Inviting Students to the Mathematics

How do we invite students to the mathematics, and explicitly signal to kids that they have ideas that matter in math class?

In this series of blog posts, the first of which is available here, we’re exploring how, in order to be successful in a problem-based classroom, students have to shift their thinking about what being a good math student looks and sounds like. What do you notice about your own students’ beliefs about how they should participate? What are you curious about now, as you think about what it takes for students to be successful in a problem-based classroom?

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How Do Students Perceive Problem-Based Learning?

Does problem-based learning mean students need to forget everything they knew about how to act in math class?

As a teacher, and then as a coach and teacher-educator, I’ve been thinking for a long time about the shifts teachers need to make when using a problem-based curriculum like the IM Math curricula. Recently, though, I’ve gotten to be in classrooms not as a coach or a teacher, but just to observe. Sitting with the students, experiencing math class from their perspective, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the demands placed on them as learners in a problem-based setting.

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Making Sense of Distance in the Coordinate Plane

Linda Richard, Curriculum Writer

I used to teach my students a catchy song to memorize the distance formula. We all had fun goofily singing this song. My students hummed it to themselves during tests and successfully calculated distances. I was pleased with this outcome—but what did my students actually understand about distance in the coordinate plane? In retrospect, very little.

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Presenting IM Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2

Kate Nowak, Director of 6-12 Curriculum

When I was teaching high school mathematics, my local colleagues and I spent a whole lot of time creating problem-based lessons. We were convinced that this style of instruction was a good way to learn, but the textbooks in use at our school simply contained definitions and theorems, worked examples, and practice problems. One day I was talking to my dad about how much time I had been spending lesson planning. His response was, “People have been teaching geometry for, what, 3,000 years? Shouldn’t the lessons be, like, already planned?”

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What is problem-based instruction?

By William McCallum

When I was a child, I used to get puzzle books out of the library. One of the puzzles was the twelve-coin problem, the most difficult of all coin weighing problems. My mother and I worked on it separately at the same time, and she solved it first. Some time later that evening she came into my room to find me in tears of frustration. Instead of helping me, she asked: “Do you want me to tell you the solution?” I said no and she left. I will never forget the joy when I finally figured it out.

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