Math Workshop - The Problem Solving Center

After posting recently about the first three centers of my math workshop (Teacher, Homework, and Hands-on/Technology), we are on to the fourth, and final, center: The Problem Solving Center!

These problems of the month, from Inside Mathematics, are amazing and have saved me a TON of time. Instead of creating my own problem solving problems, I almost always pick one of these to use as a center. They are well thought out, interesting for students, and challenge every student regardless of what level they are currently at! Not only that...they are FREE!

Each problem comes with multiple levels, starting with a Level A problem. For sixth grade, I usually print of Level A through Level D for my problem solving center. I laminate six copies, so that each student has their own copy (my largest group is six). Level A begins pretty easy for sixth grade, so most of my students breeze through the first one. I still like having them complete Level A, even though it is usually pretty simple, because it gets them warmed up and gives them some confidence! Each level gets progressively more difficult. I love this format because every students can work at their own pace and is challenged. My students who take a little longer to grasp the concepts might be focusing on Level B for some time, while my higher students are being challenged by Level C or Level D.

From time to time, keeping students focused on the problems at this center can be an issue. I am still working on finding the best way to hold students accountable for their work at this center! At the beginning of the year I had students recording work in their notebooks (we made a section in our notebooks for Problem Solving). Those became tedious to check, so I am going to start having a packet ready for each student where they can record their answers. It is a packet, or worksheet, that lists the questions from each level and gives space for them to show their work.

The time table on these problems of the month can vary, but I usually give students about one week to work on one set of problems (Level A-D). With each rotation being about ten minutes, that gives students about 50 minutes total to work on each problem during a week. Depending on the problem, I sometimes give a few extra days on a problem.

Most days I have students working on one of these problems during this center. However, this is also a center that can be flexible. If I have a great new hands-on idea or math game for my students to try, and it is a day where we have iPads in the technology/hands-on center, I might have students try out the new idea at this center. I really enjoy having that flexibility with both the technology/hands-on center and the problem solving center! As always, please leave any questions or ideas in the comments section!

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