The tower building problem has a correct answer. How will you keep students focused on the problem solving process while still leading them toward understanding that optimal solution?
Correlate to a relevant topic or a topic of interest. With it being football and soon to be basketball season, relate the seasons to stats and scores. Think about how if drafts were based solely on stats, scores, percentages, etc., how could those outcomes affect a problem that team owners may face in dealing with a salary cap per team and other logistics set into place by league rules? Use data sorts to determine the best player, etc. How could this problem be solved?
Clearly defined objectives and related reflection before and after every actiivity.
I have been having a lot of luck keeping them focused on the problem solving process while solving problems like the handshake activity by having them create a short google slides presentation. The slides format lends itself naturally to having one slide for each of the steps of the problem solving process, and encourages the kids to outline exactly how they are applying the problem solving process. I will do the same, and then have them do a round robin tour around the room to view everyone elses problem solving steps.
By cheering my students on to take a risk to see the ways they can attempt to solve the problem.
I would imagine dedicating time to writing out strategies, reflecting on them, as well as explicitly discussing their approaches, might encourage students to focus on the problem solving process involved in this activity.
In my class we talk about our solutions in steps. What is the problem? What was your plan? How did you execute your plan? Did your plan work? Could it be improved? My students have gotten used to the fact that they will have to explain their process, not just give an answer.
During this exercise I would need to circulate and listen in to students to be sure they are on the right track. If they’ve gotten off track I would probably need to question them to steer them toward the correct answer as they continue to solve the tower building problem.
I have wood blocks in my room that we use for drawing nets (dot isometric drawings) in Geometry class. So I would just use those blocks. I would have them work on this individually for the 5 meter tower…then I would put them into pairs to finish out their 10 meter tower and planning for the 100 meter tower… and ask them to write down their findings and they will be sharing their ideas in class.
The idea of convergence comes to mind. How people working independently can come to the same conclusion by following a pre-determined though process. At various points in the lesson, I will have students share out their current solution so that the groups can compare each other’s solution.
I will communicate with them that documentation of the process and steps taken to get to the result are more important that getting the correct result. They are learning about their communication and problem solving skills first and foremost.
I will walk around the classroom and encourage the struggling groups to try another strategy to solve the problem. We have plenty of Lego blocks to use to solve simpler versions of the problem.
Before giving this problem to solve I have them practice with some problem solving videos that state a problem with all the rules and allow them to solve by talking it through in pairs. These problems are found on Ted Education.
We use the problem solving process to work through strategies. With the tower activity, I had to bring in checkers so that students could actually see the physical of the problem.
Having them come up with a problem that is similar that has a similar solution.
Competition can be a good thing - if a group finds the best / right answer, then others will also want to find that answer as well.
The tower building instructions were a tad on the complex side for my students, so I had to break them down into simpler steps instead of one long sheet of instructions. After that happened and I made it a little more “user-friendly”, then the students were really engaged!
By letting them figure it out on their own…problem solving does not have one correct method but many.
Students thought they understood the problem very well, but they really didn’t. I would focus on Step 1 for this scenario quite a bit.
\You keep them focused by asking them if they are sure they have the optimal solution.