Monday, 11 November 2013

How to create enagaging, functional maths problems in 2 minutes *UPDATED

Step 1: Take a table of calculations that have already been done:

e.g. Bills, receipts, timetables, answer keys to textbook functional maths tasks.

Step 2: Progressively blank out more and more information:

Here the aim is to create questions that get harder as you work down the page. Often that means either blanking out more of the boxes or blanking out the initial boxes from which the calculations are made (creating a reverse, "here's the answer, what's the question?", problem).

Step 3: Profit?

For some reason, my pupils really seem to enjoy these. One possible reason for this is that it makes any random table in to a kind of logic puzzle. Mainly though, I think my functional maths groups get a bit sick of your standard functional maths problem, which looks like this:

Lots of good, and relevant, Maths here, but its terrifyingly wordy, there are so many constraints thrown at you at once, and you have to keep flipping between the question, your working and a data-sheet.

Blanking out a table can't replace these types of questions, as this is exactly the type of question that they will be tested on in their functional maths exams, but it is a good way to introduce a complicated set of calculations in a non-threatening way. The further constraints and wordy questions can be introduced later.

Optional extras:

  • Before you show the table, get pupils to think about what its going to contain/what calculations will be done (e.g. "If you were trying to work out how much you'll be getting paid at the end of the month, what pieces of information are important? If you knew these things, what calculations would you do?").
  • Use this as an intro, to get pupils accustomed to the table and calculations involved, then bring in the wordy questions as a follow-up.
  • Get the pupils to come up with the constraints for the more complex problems (e.g. "Write a list of steps to take for getting up and taking the bus to school. How much does each one take (roughly)? When do you want to get in to school? Which bus should you take?")
    (instead of this question)
  • Involve pupils in the process - I haven't tried this one yet, but it could be done when they have completed a more textbooky problem. Get them to tipex over some of the numbers in their calculations in order to create a problem set (as in steps 1 and 2 above), then swap books with their neighbour and try to fill in the tipexed blanks.

*UPDATE - Here's another pre-made  problem on probability and percentages: