# Mathin’ like it’s 1909

So as many of you know I am cutting out things I don’t need in a lesson or question (at least right away) in order to get students thinking and engaged in the question  being posed to them.  I ran across a great book, even before Dan Meyer mentioned it in his post.  It is an old book called Problems Without Figures, written by S. Y. Gillan and published in 1909.  The great thing about the book that I have seen myself is the stripping away of answer getting and the focus on problem solving.  I gave my students the first problem of the book as bellwork yesterday.

If you know three times plus five times plus seven times a number, how do you find the number?

The first thing I will note is that it drove students crazy not knowing either the number or the total.  I had many students argue with me that the problem was unsolvable, on the grounds that they needed to have one of those quantities.  After that mutiny was quelled, my students divided into 3 camps.

Camp 1: My brain hurts

These students sat quietly and waited for others around them to find an answer or hoped I would discuss the problem as a class so they could quickly write something down and hand it in.  They firmly believed there was no way they could solve the problem, and it took private conferencing of 1-2 minutes to get them to even start processing the problem in their mind.  The odd fact I found is that in every class, these students were the ones to catch onto the idea and run so fast I could barely rein them in during discussion.  I would say roughly 10-15% of kids from every class fell into this camp.

Camp 2: Looking at Multiplication