I spent the first day of summer (teacher summer, that is, not meteorological summer) having fun with math problems! I worked with other teachers and math coaches from our district to design low floor/high ceiling math explorations.
What is low floor/high ceiling you ask? It’s a math problem (or I suppose, any subject problem) that can be accessed at many levels. All students have a way in to the problem–kids that might struggle with the subject, all the way up to the experts. Nobody is left out of these challenges! Often, they are open-ended, inquiry-based, and/or student-driven. Check out Dan Meyer’s blog for some great examples, or YouCubed from Stanford based on the work of Jo Boaler, or these 3-act math problems geared towards elementary math standards. Fun, right?!
Teaching math using these types of explorations is a ton of fun, for teachers and students. Engagement is high, and all students are reminded that puzzling, and persevering, is rewarding. Even after we’ve moved on from the inquiry in the classroom, students will come up to me days and weeks later to tell me how they’ve continued to grapple with the ideas on their own–new approaches, or new solutions, or even new math questions to pursue.
Here’s a 3-act that I made a year ago, but haven’t yet used with students; it can be used for fractions, multiplication/division, money, or more! And here’s a quick prompt we made today; I have used a similar prompt with 4th grade students, with amazing returns! It wasn’t enough for them to figure out how many cans there were; we also figured out how much it would all cost, how many calories in the display, and how many fluid ounces of soda were in the display. TONS of multiplication!
What are your favorite resources for engaging low floor/high ceiling math problems? Please share! I’m going to keep my eyes open over the summer for pictures and videos I could take that would translate to math exploration in the classroom (or maybe…literacy prompts? Writing? What would low floor/high ceiling look like in those subjects? Let’s try it!).