Problem Solving and Solution Documentation

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SWBAT work collaboratively solving problems and document their solutions.

Big Idea

While students have fun playing the popular game, Rush Hour, they're actually learning to solve problems collaboratively and finding out why it's important to document their solutions.

Replicating a Documented Solution: Origami

30 minutes

This is a pretty relaxed activity, but it does have value. It involves basic geometry, problem-solving, following directions, and collaboration. All good things.

I have origami paper on hand, but for this exercise, I actually give students 8.5" x 11" to use. The first problem of the day will be how to create the largest possible square from the rectangular paper. It's a good warm-up to the activity.

Once my students have completed the largest square activity done that, I give them copies of the Samurai Hat instructions (click here to access the instructions from the website). When a group has successfully finished their Samurai Hat, I give them the Origami Star instructions and a real piece of origami paper (now that they've earned it -- click here to access the instructions).

As students finish their work and write their names on their designs, I collect them. Next time students come to class, they will see their finished products on the walls of the classroom, making it feel a little more like a shared space where their work is valued.

 Time permitting, at the end of this activity, I show videos of origami foldings like this one.

This activity gives us a chance to discuss the importance of documenting solutions and the different advantages/disadvantages of different types of documentation (narrative, video, etc.).

Cooperative Problem Solving: Rush Hour

40 minutes

This is another fun, team-building exercise, but it's also very logical and geometric. I have eight Rush Hour boards in my classroom. It's a good game to have around. 

First I demonstrate how the game is played. Then I put one of the easy puzzle configurations on the document camera. I explain to students, who are still in groups of 3-4, that they will have to find a solution and document it so that someone else could replicate it. And they're off.

As groups find the solution and document their solution, I give them feedback to make sure that they're documentation is clear and not ambiguous. When they have produced an acceptable product, I give them the OK to move on to the next level of problem. Each time, a group finishes a new level, they call me over so I can see them repeat the solution. Half the time, they can't remember what they did. So, of course I say "Wouldn't it be nice if we had some documentation?"

As we get up into the more advanced puzzles, the solutions are much more convoluted and involve a lot of trial and error (see Video). It would be too much, I think, to ask students to notate the entire solutions. But, I think that group's benefit from thinking about the importance of documenting a solution.