Update on Problem Reports

As discussed in my previous post, my “math for liberal arts” students need to demonstrate achievement (I don’t know if “demonstrating achievement” is the best term, but I am going to go with it for this post) in several learning goals by submitting “problem reports” and pointing out where exactly they are demonstrating said achievement.

We had our first problem already. The students submitted their first problem report on Monday. About three-quarters of them did not explicitly point out where they were demonstrating achievement in the problem reports; they tended to generally state something related to this on the cover page, but they did not link. or “tag,” it to the specific place where the demonstration occurs. This is a problem for two reasons:

  1. I want students to have to be very aware of what they are doing, and specificity is important to doing this. So it is important to “tag” each demonstration to make both the student and the teaching staff aware of what the student was thinking.
  2. It is really, really tough to grade these if the students do not “tag” the demonstrations.

I did provide a sample problem report that included this tagging, but the underlying problem here is that I did not support the students enough with this new/unusual way of grading. So here is my two-part solution:

  1. We did not grade Monday’s submissions; rather, the students can resubmit on Friday. I explicitly told them to “tag” their demonstrations for their resubmissions.
  2. I spent today’s class (Wednesday) writing up another sample problem report in front of them. So students saw exactly the process of how to create these.

I have a good group of students, so I am guessing that problem reports will be good on Friday. This is just a good reminder to me that you almost cannot communicate enough when you are deviating from what is typical in a mathematics class.


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3 Responses to “Update on Problem Reports”

  1. Sheri Eastman Says:

    I found your blog as a result of googling “How to solve it Polya course”. I am a HS math teacher and first time math club sponsor. The math club competes in HS math contests like http://www.mathleague.com. I decided to use Polya’s book as a starting point for our practice sessions. I appreciate your posts on your problem solving course and look forward to learning more. I’d be interested in knowing how receptive your students were to the wikipedia “How to solve it” article.

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Hi Sheri!

      Thanks for the comment. I wish that I were posting more on this topic. I will try to post an update sometime this week.

      Until then, have a nice night!

  2. Problem Solving for the Liberal Arts | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] Just to remind you (and also me, actually), I will list the major points about the course structure. I have two more-detailed posts here and here. […]

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