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Engaging Math: The Candy Problem

I mentioned the Candy Problem in a previous post in which I alluded to having provided the kids with a challenging math problem that even teachers had been taking a significant chunk of time to solve. The Candy Problem was brought to us by the Galileo Educational Network as part of a longitudinal "lesson study" approach to math PD our math teachers are participating in.

We presented the problem as part of an end-of-semester formative assessment. We had had many conversations previous to presenting them with this problem about multiples, factors, common factors, number patterns and multiplicative relationships.

Our goal was not to evaluate the kids based on whether or not they could complete the problem but to provide them with a means of generating conjectures and demonstrating their thinking process.

Having started the year with a diverse group from very different mathematical backgrounds, we were inspired by their concentration, perseverance, and the unique strategies they developed in order to solve the problem. What most impressed us was the number of students that approached us to share tentative solutions at the end of the period. They each had individual interpretations of how the problem should be solved and were eager to share the conjectures that had led them to their solutions.

Since first introducing the problem, we have taken it up more in depth as a larger group. Kids have been working in teams based on original ideas they had in common for how a solution might be reached. They are excited, motivated, and eager for our next math class so that they can continue to develop and connect their understanding. Our Grade 7 and Grade 9 students have also since taken up the problem, inspired by the mathematical reasoning skills of their younger peers.

If there was ever any doubt about the power of inquiry in a math classroom, these last few weeks have put it to rest for our team. Check out our video!!

We'd love your feedback...


Anonymous said...

Amy and Deirdre,

The description of your introduction of the candy problem to your students as a teaching team, highlights several key elements of teaching through inquiry. You provide your students with some background understanding of mathematical concepts through hands-on learning activities and you create a safe climate for them to explore new problems, like the candy problem, in which they are encouraged to make conjectures about various possibilities. I am impressed with the success you are experiencing in working with a diverse group of students. You demonstrate how teaching through inquiry is good for all students. Your video clip in which the students describe their reflections on their multiple approaches to solve the candy problem is very powerful. It reflects the incredible work you are doing with your students and the high level of enthusiasm and engagement you have generated among them. Your blog and video clip will inspire others to find ways to authentically engage their students. Garry McKinnon

bsquared said...

Bernard here from NRICH . Deidre, you sent in a response to our Lots of Lollies in November. I am very impressed with what happened. I would like to make further contact - We are at Cambridge University so my email is

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