First Day of Math Challenge

Starting the year with a challenge
On the first day of school, every single student walked into math class and was challenged with the exact same problem. 

You work for Middy Corp: I need you to set up prices for our great new product “Wonkits.” Each price must be three digits long, and all numbers must be ascending. How many possible prices are there?

The basic question was to try to figure out how many three-digit rising numbers exist that don’t start with zero. An example of a three-digit rising number is “123”—each digit is bigger than the next. 

Why this problem?
In math education jargon, the problem had a low floor (easy entry for all students), a high ceiling (the problem could be extended to challenge even seniors), and an open middle (a myriad of different possible approaches). 

“I think it’s really interesting for the kids to see that they’re all starting math the same way, no matter what grade they’re in, no matter what class they’re in, and that there are many different ways to tackle math,” said Tricia Phaneuf, an upper school math teacher. “Instead of just going over a syllabus on the first day of class, we like to get kids up and doing math because we want to get them excited about it.”

A hands-on approach to math
This approach is based on the book Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics. Last year, our math teachers found that the book profoundly aligned with Bosque School’s mission. Weaving the book’s concepts into their classrooms, teachers typically kick off every math class with a challenging warm-up problem that requires students to connect skills and collaborate with one another. Students were at the whiteboards implementing creative problem-solving strategies from the very first day of school.

Looking forward
Throughout this year, our math teachers’ mission is to help all students develop their skills and capacities to collaborate, persevere, and take risks in the classroom. Along with strong skill development, each class will be using the pedagogical framework laid out in Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics to develop a deep understanding of the content at every level of our Bosque School mathematics curriculum.

Do you or someone you know have a rising 6–11th grade student who would thrive with a hands-on, inquiry-based education? Invite them to schedule a visit!