News and Tribune

May 1, 2013

Providence students take part in project



Honors Algebra II students at Our Lady of Providence Jr.-Sr. High School are discovering that the problem-solving process can be even more important than the solution itself. 

 These math students are taking part in Collaborative Mathematics and the Video Challenge Project, a web-based mathematical problem-solving group for middle- and high-school students.

The Collaborative Mathematics site and project is designed to present students with challenging problems so that they must spend a day or more thinking about the solution. The students then create a video to describe the process and solution. They must submit the video to their teacher, and they have the option of posting the video on the Collaborative Mathematics site where other contributors can view it.

For example, one challenge asked students on which finger would they end if they counted on their fingers to 1,000. The students each created a video that presents the problem and narrates how they solved it. Sometimes the answers are incorrect or the steps to achieve the correct answer contain mistakes, but the video allows the students to demonstrate and explain the process, said math teacher Jason Mullis.

Mullis said the Collaborative Mathematics project has helped his students develop problem-solving skills that go beyond rushing through their homework.

“It’s definitely made them think a little more,” he said. “It gets them interested in problem solving in general. Previously, they were just interested in the fastest way to an outcome and didn’t care if it was right. Now that other people are seeing their stuff, they’re putting more thought into it.”

Kelsey Rodgers, a junior from Louisville, said she has gotten a lot out of the project, especially being able to hear the perspective of the Collaborative Mathematics site’s founder, Jason Ermer, a mathematician from Texas who is doing research overseas in Olsen, Norway. She and her classmates recently participated in a class Facetime session with Ermer, who discussed some of the students’ posted solutions as well as how he approaches problem solving.

“It’s been interesting to see how to solve different types of problems,” Kelsey said.

The students’ latest challenge is to come up with a problem that Ermer won’t be able to solve.