The Teachers' Scrounge

News and comments from the world of public education. A middle school math teacher shared what he learned today.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Do what you can, then worry about the rest

Margie delivers newspapers to 100 houses. She pays $3.00 for a pack of 25 newspapers. The subscribers pay 50 cents for each newspaper. Margie delivers newspapers 6 days per week. How much profit does she make each week?
One of my colleagues laments that his students freeze up when faced with questions like the one above. He says they sit back in their desks, turn up their noses, and say, "I don't know what to do." There is so much information here! Everyone can do something with this information. Tell me how many packs of newspapers she buys? What is Margie's cost-per-paper? How many papers does she sell in a week? SOMETHING!

Students may not realize that we give them very leading questions. If they calculate what they can, the resulting information takes them to another step, then another, until it has led them down a path to the required solution.

One strategy I want to attempt -- have students write five questions they can answer with the information at the beginning of this post. Help students develop problem solving strategies by writing the problems.

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