I did Central Park in class today. I’d never really done it because I wasn’t sure how it would go over with our short classes1, and I was afraid that my classes would struggle with that kind of abstraction this early. But I went for it. Holy heck, it was awesome. They loved it. A few needed a little help, but even my weakest students did very well with it and were really encouraged. Many satisfied looks, many arms thrown into the air when all 16 of those parking lots were filled.
For the past 2 years, I have tried teaching Exeter’s Guess and Check method for problem solving. Glenn Waddell gives an excellent summary of it here. For a summary of the summary, students use a table to organize guesses for a problem solution. After a few iterations, a student can look at the rows of the table to formulate an equation and then solve.
I see it as a very reliable strategy that scaffolds beautifully, but for 2 years I have not been able to sell it. They don’t see the point, they refuse to believe it’s better than what they would otherwise do, etc, etc. But I saw moments in the Central Park experience that made me think merging Guess and Check with a scaffolded Activity Builder may be a better path to teach it.
I’m not 100% sure what that looks like just yet, but I’d love to hear suggestions if you have them. I wonder if a table in the grapher could help, though that is not very easy to see on the dashboard.
I will admit that I made little to no attempt at describing my students’ struggle with Guess and Check. I will try that in a follow up. I just wanted to get this down now.
140 minutes — I know, right?!?