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NumberFix: "Think Tank"...weekly problem solving that gets published monthly

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from NumberFix
Math Skill: weekly problem solving Students Publish: five problems every month

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Student Samples from this Lesson

Writing for Math Class:
"Think Tank" Problem Solving

This writing across the curriculum lesson was written by NumberFix Coordinator, Holly Young, who designed it for grades 7-12. Check out Holly's Making Mathematicians website.

This lesson was proposed to NumberFix using this template. If you have a math/mentor text lesson you'd like to have published, fill out the template and send it to Holly Young, our NumberFix Coordinator: We'll send you an NNWP Print Publication if we post your lesson here!

Lesson Overview & Objective:

"Think Tank" is a way for students to practice writing and organizing their explanations for open response questions weekly, then publishing their best attempts every month. Students have opportunities to practice problem-solving and use math skills in context. An important aspect of "think tank" is for students to discuss problems with one another and grade each other’s work and writing. At year's end, students publish their very best problem-solving work and collectively create a "museum" that chronicles the year/semester of study.

Students will be able to solve mathematical problems in practical situations. Students will be able to apply problem-solving, reasoning, and communication skills through writing.

Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson:

  • Idea Development (writing with a clear, central idea or theme in mind; putting learned information and research into one's own words)
  • Organization (beginning the writing with a strong introduction; ending the writing with a satisfying conclusion by linking the conclusion back to the introduction)

Materials List:

Teacher Instructions:

  • Pass out Think Tank Assignment and read it outloud.
  • Pass out Think Tank problems. Teachers can choose to give specific problems to each student or a general list can be given to all students. I do recommend that students have some choice as to which problems they choose to solve.
  • Time can be given to work on problems any time during class. I wouldn’t recommend giving out the problems as homework, as answers can be looked up on the internet. (Problems that are grade appropriate can be found in many places. I prefer Teaching Math in the Middle School calendar problems and The Mathematics Teacher calendar problems. Other great locations are and the American Mathematics Competition.) I included a small sample of questions that I wrote up for 8 th grade.
  • Each month students turn in their 3-5 problems finished for other students to assess. When the work is assessed, students get a chance to look at the answers to their problems. NO ONE can write while they are looking at the solutions. When a student is finished examining the solutions, then they need to write a reflection on their solution and the grade that was given them by another student.
  • Teacher uses Think Tank teacher rubric to grade students problems and reflections.
  • Think Tank continues throughout the year. Students turn in 3-5 problems every month, then they choose one problem to present during a lunch time event – lunch in the museum. All students have an exhibit that shows one problem and its full reflection (see lunch in museum rubric). Students and guests wander around the exhibits and fill out assessment forms on each exhibit (see lunch in museum hand-out). I invite the faculty and parents to the lunch. Hopefully other students are encouraged to attend by their peers. Students can get bonus points for having people come and give feedback on their project.

Student Samples:

Below, find final, published products from four of Holly's high school students who wrote problems all year and then published one set to share at the class's "lunch at the museum." The student samples provided are from a Trigonometry class. The problems that Holly picked for the students to use were from past AMC 12 tests and The Mathematics Teacher Magazine calendars.

If you have an excellent sample that you can photograph and send to us after teaching this lesson, we'll say "Thanks!" by sending you a copy of one of the NNWP's Print Resources for your classroom. Contact Holly ( if you're interested.

(Click on the picture above to see it in larger form.)

(Click on the picture above to see it in larger form.)

(Click on the picture above to see it in larger form.)

(Click on the picture above to see it in larger form.)



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