Problem Solving Fridays

A new initiative this year at CMA is Problem Solving Fridays. The purpose of this block is to come together and collaborate as multi-grade learning teams around problem solving activities.  Students are learning to work in diverse groups while employing various problem solving skills.  Over past couple weeks we have been working together to solve problems in the discipline of math. Students have used mathematical strategies such as looking for patterns, making charts and tables with data, guessing and checking, drawing pictures or models, acting out scenarios, solving simpler related problems, and working backwards. These strategies are extremely valuable as they transfer outside of the discipline of math.  

This past Friday we worked with a problem called Marbles in a Box. Imagine a 3 dimensional Tic Tac Toe game. The students were to find out how many winning combinations there were. In a period of 30 minutes they were able to come up with several different strategies to present to their peers.  CMA students were even able to develop a formula that transferred over as the box increased in dimension. Please see the pictures below for some examples of student explanations.  

Many students are noting the advantage of working with people with a variety of experience and ways of thinking about things, but also the challenges. As we forge ahead we will continue to work on mathematical problems, but may also start to look at some challenges that cross into other domains. Hopefully we will even be presented with some ‘real world’ scenarios. Some of these scenarios will connect to our E3 activities. Perhaps you have a scenario in your workplace to present to our kids to do some creative problem solving around?

An example of some students transferring authentic problem solving activities into real world scenarios comes from some work done in School District 43’s Inquiry Hub. The students in this program noticed that the process of taking attendance was eating into their valuable learning time. A group decided they were going to develop an app so that students could sign in for the day with their phones so that they could eliminate cumbersome process and be more efficient with their time. A construction company heard about the app the students developed and felt that it could also be used in their workplace to record sign-in and working hours for their employees. The company ended up buying the app from the students and is now using it for this purpose. Wouldn’t it be awesome for some of our CMA students to be able to have such a meaningful and rewarding learning experience? If you have a workplace scenario you think our CMA students could take stake in please contact  

img_0653 img_0652 img_0651

Ms. Patching
Ms. Patching