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December 01, 2012


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David Sundstedt

What was the given problem?

Philomena Hughes

Can you tell us more about the actual lesson?

Krista McKeague

Great blog! What was the question that you asked them?


What was the two part question you gave them to solve?


Hi Marsha,

Thanks for writing a very interesting post. I would be keen to see the two-part problem to which you refer in order to get a better sense of what the students were up against. As well, what age are the kids in your class? I realize that you are presenting here a more general approach to problem-solving but I am interested in the specifics as well.

Thanks again,


Hi, I'm gearing up to teach my students about square roots and exponents after the break. I also have 8th graders and they're learning algebra. I love the lesson on self-directed learning that you incorporated! Would you mind possibly sharing with me the resources you used or are using for this?

Jarius Jones

When I opened my school email this morning, I noticed your article in the Dec. 5th NCTM SmartBrief and became interested; especially when I saw the name Marsha Ratzel. You and I served on the committee for the Center for Teaching Quality in KS several years ago.
I found this article to be quite intriguing; particularly, the way in which you challenged students to search for information they needed in order to make sense of a concept(s) they may be unfamiliar with. Presently, I am the Teacher Leader (fka Instructional Coach) at F.L. Schlagle High School in Kansas City, KS. For the last 2.5 years I have wondered/brainstormed ideas that may elicit improved and increased engagement in Math classes, but I've managed to only think of a few options that seem to help with certain teachers. However, your strategy seems to be effective regardless of the personality or experience of a teacher, which is what I encounter throughout my daily practice of coaching.
Sorry for the long response, but I am so proud of your success and innovation. Thank you for sharing with the rest of the educational community your professional expertise.

Cindie Donahue

I loved hearing about your experience. What was the two part problem that you gave them?

Roland Roberts

You're killing me...what was the problem you had them work on?

Natalie House

Thank you for posting this. I have been struggling with how to incorporate PBL into math. It was easy when I taught science, but math seems to be a different beast when designing work.

Marsha Ratzel

Thanks Natalie for your comment. I agree it has taken a bit of thinking and re-designing to figure out how to apply that empowered learner model (ie PBL) to math. It's worth the struggle I think.

Marsha Ratzel

The problem they were solving is really pretty simple

x----> SQRTx

and the second problem was

x----> SQRT ABS(x).

For these problems, they had to define what inputs, if any, were not valid.

Marsha Ratzel

Dear Blaise,

My students are 12, 13 and 14 year olds in 8th grade. They come hetergenously mixed ability classes and we use a inquiry-oriented, real-world problem based math curriculum.

Do you work with math students? How have you tackled this problem of finding information but not knowing how to use it for solving problems?


Great job! I'm attempting to shift my students to a PBL enviornment; however, they have been instructed traditionally much of their lives. It's been a struggle so far, but we are getting there.


School online should make a way on how to really work things out in teaching. Math is a hard subject and should be really taught well on students.

dissertation writing service reviews

This is a good way of learning. This can surely nourish students mind especially in mathematical skills which is actually the most important thing to know about.

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