However, math teachers are not the intended audience for these items. Math students are. While 101qs does a very good job of sorting out the good items from the bad, it seemed to me that the scoring system was more indicative of what teachers saw as perplexing - especially if they can immediately see the math behind the problem. Students don't look at problems this way. They seem to take more interest in the problems that they think are "cool".

Before you look at the data, let me explain a couple of things. I used two different presentations on two different days. Each presentation included twenty items from 101qs. I tried to pick things that were either highlighted on Dan's blog or belonged to users who regularly show up in the top 10 acts. I told the students to write either a "yes" or "no" for each item. A "yes" would indicate that they found the problem interesting and would like to solve it. The presentations were shown to thirty upper-level sixth grade students and forty-six lower-level eighth grade students. Because the presentations were shown on two different days, I did not mix the results of the first presentation with the second. This made sense as the students did not appear to be as enthusiastic the second day (not sure why). Finally, I didn't do this in a very scientific way, and there certainly may be flaws with my experiment. For instance, there were a few items where some students loudly showed their appreciation/distaste and I thought this might have skewed the results.

I must insist that this data does not condemn the work on 101qs. It simply adds to the discussion already happening on Dan's website. For me, it has given a little more insight into what might interest my students.

Click this link for the data.

Some things I noticed...

1. Timon's dominoes was still number 1. The kids loved it.

2. Although these do well on 101qs, the kids did not like these problems. I find all of them to be interesting, and I think with the right presentation, they would do well in a classroom. But at first glance, the kids gave the thumbs down.

3. Griffy did much better with my kids (especially the sixth graders) than with 101qs. I bookmarked this video immediately after watching it. I love the concept and I can't wait to use it in the classroom. I was surprised to see the perplexity score so low for this one.

4. Futurama sells. I suspect showing any cartoon that the kids like and has math in it will interest them (no pun intended). This might also have done well because some of the students thought a curse was bleeped out.

5. Upper-level sixth graders were typically much more interested in the problems than lower-level eighth graders. This was to be expected.

Nathan Kraft

Any theories on the four that didn't do well with students that did have high perplexity? Were there any side comments made while those were shown? I get the impression that "how many are there" isn't all that enlightening in the end; "2000 rather than 1000 tickets" just doesn't seem as fulfilling as "the domino topple will last X seconds".

ReplyDeleteOn the other hand, the high-rated how-much-money question, while on the mathematical surface very similar, puts students in the attitude of I-want-to-spend it and the visceral feeling of ten million versus ten thousand dollars is tangible enough that they care.

Do you think they got the "joke" on the 70%-30% picture? I think it's possible they just saw two numbers and never went "wait, 100%?"

Do you think the reaction to #3 might partially be due to the delivery being given by someone closer to their age?

100% Off: This was the first one I showed them for the second set. I don't think that many of my students have much experience shopping under a budget. They say to their parents, "Get me that." They don't care how much things cost, not like typical users of 101qs. And no, I don't think they saw the joke.

DeleteRoll of Tickets: I think "how many" isn't always that interesting of a thing to know. "How many slips of paper" is kind of boring. "How many $100 bills", while pretty much the same problem, is interesting.

Griffy Runs: I think cute kids are good at selling products. I just like that this product is mathematically valuable. I've gotten some good feedback for my pound of quarters video because it too has a cute kid: https://vimeo.com/40114543