# What to do when you don’t know what to do

I’m reblogging this in response to Sam Shah’s request to write about a favorite open ended problem.

My students do not have much experience with non-routine problems. On occasion they’ve completed complex tasks, but certainly not enough, or a variety, for students to build self-efficacy. I’m trying to change that by living a SMART goal I created for myself. Last Thursday, day 8, I presented a formative lesson designed by the Mathematical Assessment Project.

The problem began: Emily doesn’t trust banks with her money. She has stored \$24,000 in one dollar bills under her mattress. The rest of the problem can be seen below. This student’s attempt was typical.

After they worked on the task independently for fifteen minutes, I collected their work. I found myself providing the same feedback over and over. (My handwriting is atrocious. I know. )

As I reviewed their work, I came upon this response:

One or two students thought to estimate the size of a mattress, but their dimensions weren’t reasonable…

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## 4 thoughts on “What to do when you don’t know what to do”

1. I love this idea! Your feedback is very good–giving them a lot to think about. I like that your feedback is specific and the purpose is to help guide them. Feedback is essential to formative assessment.

1. Providing written feedback was a lot of work, but doing the task in this manner gave me a window into their thinking. Thanks for stopping by!

2. Mary –

I’m glad you posted a problem from the MAP project! It reminded me to bookmark that site (again!) and review ideas there that I can use with my Algebra 2 students. I’m looking at the Boomerang problem on optimization as a formative assessment question near the end of our current unit.

1. Hey Beth!

I gave the Boomerang task to my pre-algebra students! They were able to solve it but not using systems of equations because they haven’t been exposed to it yet. I wrote about the task here if you’re interested. Take care!