Thursday, September 17, 2009

Demystifying Per Cent Problems Part II - Using Multiple Representations and an SAT Problem

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Before tackling a more challenging problem in the classroom, I would typically begin with one or more simpler examples. My objective was to review essential concepts and skills and demonstrate key ideas in the harder problem. This incremental approach (sometimes referred to as scaffolding) enabled some students to solve the problem or at least get started. Usually within each group of 3-4 students, there was at least one who could help the others. Some groups or classes might still not be ready after one example, so more would be needed. I never felt that this expense of time was too costly since my goal was to develop both skill and understanding.


SIMPLER EXAMPLE
Consider the following two statements about positive numbers A and B:

(1) A is 80% of B.
(2) A is 20%
less than B .

Are these equivalent, that is, if values of A and B satisfy (1), will they also hold true for (2) and conversely?

How would you get this idea across to your students?


Again, depending on the students, I would often allow them to discuss it first in small groups for two minutes, then open up the discussion.

Note: If the group lacks the skills, confidence or background (note that I left ability out, intentionally!), I might first start with concrete values before giving them the 2 statements above: E.g., What is 80% of 100?

How would I summarize the methods of solution to this question. Here's what I attempted to do in each lesson. I didn't reach everyone but I found from further questioning and subsequent assessment that this multi-pronged approach was more successful than previous methods I had used. Most of these methods came from the students themselves!

INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGIES

I. Choose a particular value for one of the numbers, say B = 100. Ask WHY it makes sense to start with B first and why does it make sense to use 100. Calculate the value of A and discuss.

II. Draw a pie chart (circle graph) showing the relationship between A and B. Stress that B would represent the whole or 100%.

III. Write out the sentence:
80% of B is the same as 100% of B - 20% of B
In other words:
80% of B is the same as 20% less than B.

IV. Express algebraically (as appropriate):
0.8B = 1B - 0.2B

Numerical (concrete values)
Visual (Pie chart)
Verbal (using natural language)

Symbolic (algebra)


Yes, it's Multiple Representations! The Rule of Four!


To me, it's all about accessing different modes of how students process. Call it learning styles, brain-based learning, etc., it still comes down to:
RARELY DOES ONE METHOD OF EXPLANATION, NO MATTER HOW CLEAR OR STRUCTURED, REACH A MAJORITY OF STUDENTS. YOUR FAVORITE EXPLANATION WILL MAKE THE MOST SENSE TO THE STUDENTS WHO THINK LIKE YOU!!


Now for today's challenge.
(Assume all variables represent positive numbers)

M is x% less than P and N is x% less than Q. If MN is 36% less than PQ, what is the value of x?

Can you think of several methods?
I will suggest one of the favorite of many successful students on standardized assessments:

Choose P = 10, Q = 10. Then...


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Answer: x = 20

1 comment:

Donna said...

thanks for instructional strategies