Thursday, January 22, 2015

5 Good Sites for Problem Solving -- Honors and non-honors classes.

1. I came across the site when I discovered 5 Gems from Resourceaholic. First of all, every time I encounter one of 5 Gems from Resourceaholic, I find at least one excellent resource--and usually five! claims to "Build your problem solving skills. Raise your performance in math and science with thousands of free problems, explanations, and examples."

What I like about this website is that it gives you a problem of the day both in email and on Facebook. Some of the problems are tried and true problems that are famous and not necessarily part of any curriculum. Others are spot on for the topic you are teaching, and there are quizzes made that students can take. They are not ordinary quizzes that you can find at a textbook website, where a student regurgitates what was just taught. Rather, they are thought-provoking problems that require higher level thinking and are more out-of-the box...a teacher's dream! Who makes this stuff up?? I want to meet them. This is great for honors classes, especially as a warm up or a pre-test. But it is also good for non-honors classes to solve as a group by throwing out ideas and coming up with an answer. It really gets students to think, and is great for when there is five minutes of class left and rather than have students pack up and wait for the bell, they can solve problems that are interesting. This problem had my students arguing for a long time.

And judging from the comments, there are still arguments ensuing. I need to spend more time here and earn points! I love the "gaming" idea of earning points on this site. I can give my students a link to a quiz that they can take at their own pace, and there are so many mini-topics to choose from. This is truly one of the best sites that I have come across lately.

I loved receiving this email from my student a few days later, stating in the subject line: This Brilliant Problem Uses the Square Root Property the Class Just Learned! So cool.

2. I have posted before here that I am the advisor of a math club, Mu Alpha Theta. The old tests that are posted on the FAMAT website are excellent, and again, many questions are different than the ordinary problems you see in a test bank. My club students work on these problems once a week, but I also pick some and put them on tests or review sheets to give to all my students so that they can process what they learned in a new way.

3. The North Carolina School for Science and Math (NCSSM) has an awesome test bank that again has good problems that are out of the ordinary. I always had a difficult time finding test questions that were not exactly like the book so students had to think, and I referred to this site for many years.

4. I have no idea how I came across Joe Champion's list of famous problems to solve, but I love the puzzles he lists here. One I try to give each year is the the problem of the three prisoners' hats, and I like to have the kids act it out. This works in all levels of courses, and is actually more fun with non-honors students, as the light in their eyes is SO exciting when they arrive at the answer together!
The other one I enjoy giving is the problem of the jugs of water, where students need to make exactly 5 gallons from 3- and 4-gallon jugs. After we solve this problem, I like to show this video from Die Hard 3 where Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson solve this problem and save the world. For more puzzles like this, such as the locker problem and Einstein's logic problem, see my post here.

5. Sam Shah's virtual filing cabinet has a plethora of problems ranging from "problems that don't fit" to "first day of school ideas" to "multivariable calculus." He has spent a good amount of time organizing all the problems that I love plus one's I've never seen. When do people find the time to do this awesome stuff for us?!?

This list could go on and on...if you have a link to a great problem solving site, please post below or send to me directly.


My favorite new book is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It is a book about a genetics professor, Don Tillman, who is socially inept and possibly has Aspergers, though he does not know it...think Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory..and is on a quest to find the perfect wife--although no one seems to match up exactly with his insane questionnaire. Enter Rosie, who is the exact opposite of the perfect wife for Don. It is very funny, witty, and I could not put it down. In fact, I went to the library today to get the sequel, The Rosie Effect, which is out in hardcover. I believe a movie is in the works.


OK, I know it's past New Year's, but I wanted to show how I use to get most of my baking ideas for the holidays...and in general!

Follow me on Pinterest here for holiday ideas.