Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to make homework work

Just yesterday AoPS released a new online problem resource for Middle School level (MathCounts) material: I took a quick look last night and it seems fairly well done. Not too many frills, beyond a leader board but it does do full answers not multiple choice and the problem set is appropriate. This would make good drilling material for those interested in improving on contests like Knights of Pi as well.  Unfortunately, my beta tester is in the midwest with his grandparents. Perhaps when he gets back I can bribe him with enough m&m's to try it out for 10 minutes and give me his impressions despite it being summer break. If it does pass muster I'll point kids this way when we get close to the various contests it would help with.

This brings me back to the topic of homework. As I've mentioned before I did not have much success giving a challenge problem a week out to the math club last fall. So I adjusted and focused mainly on in class activities for the rest of the year. Quite possibly I'm setting myself up for repeat failure but I'm planning to give it another try this year. I don't want to do anything rote (there's plenty of that in regular school assignments). However, motivated by some posts around the blogosphere I do think these type exercises are a particularly good way to build problem solving skills. The key is getting the kids to even try them,  So my tentative idea is to do a reward system. I'll give a point for every sheet submitted showing some work done on the problem (maybe 2 points for a correct solution). We'll track it on a bar graph that everyone can see. Then when the group reaches a threshold I'll bring in some kind of treat. This mostly  mirrors what the various teachers do to reward good behavior so I'm hoping it will have some efficacy.


Here's my first attempts doing geometry drawings with geogebra:

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