IMP POW overcomes shaky start

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GRAPHIC BY JEREMY SUH

Students can solve Problems of the Week in multiple ways.

There is no one method to solve a problem, and a great solution usually takes a few trials and errors.
In Quarter One, the Interactive Math Program (IMP), in an effort to promote student collaboration, did an All-Grade Problem of the Week (POW) with the sophomores, juniors and seniors. All classes would get a problem to solve and students would solve the problem in any way they wanted. However, at the end, students would grade one portion of other students’ POWs.
POWs are big, complex problems created to challenge students and push the boundaries of their problem-solving skills. They are open-ended and leave many areas for different methods. According to math teacher Danielle Rabina, the new All-Grade POW experiment was done for students to get the opportunity to learn from other students, something that could not be done in the previous POW format.
“Students don’t really get the opportunity to see how other students approach these problems,” Rabina said. “This benefits the younger grades because they can see more experienced students. It is a great example of what they can work towards. They see different approaches to different problems and it opens their mind to other creative ways to think about this problem.”
However, the peer grading part of the All-Grade POW had mixed reviews. Junior Aidan Finnegan thought this part of the experiment threw students off in a negative way.
“I like this new idea, but I do not think it played out too well. I think it was unfair to have students grade other POWs because it added a lot of undue stress for the graders,” Finnegan said. “This was the first time this type of thing happened, so a lot of us students were caught off guard. I felt I was not grading my peers to further my learning and expose myself to new math methods because the stress of peer grading took away from the benefits.”
In the All-Grade POW, a student grader had to give their fellow students a star based on their performance. According to sophomore Nilu Dadgar, this system should be improved because it did not best represent the quality of work.
“Even though the peer grading portion wasn’t that big of a grade, there could be more flexibility with what you could have given people. You had to give someone a star, not a letter grade. You had to give someone a good, decent or a bad grade. If someone did okay, I feel there was not a grade you could give them that really matched up,” Dadgar said.
The math teachers acknowledge the issues with this experiment. Rabina says that she, along with her colleagues, will fix the problems and improve this idea for the future so students can fully benefit from it.
“We got lots of feedback, and we are addressing it. We are trying to maximize the learning, but trying to minimize the pressure of the grading. There are many things in play that we are trying to figure out. We are discussing what parts we hope to keep, and what parts are sustainable logistically. But we are excited for the future,” Rabina said.
Finnegan says that there are some complications that come with this new system. While it may have surprised or confused students, he sees the positives. He hopes this experiment will be tweaked and improved.
“I understand that it is a complicated process. For example, one thing that didn’t work out was that we were all learning different things, and younger grades did not understand some math of the older grades,” Finnegan said. “But I feel there is a benefit to having the people who grade you be in the same boat as you. They can recognize my efforts and struggle from a student’s point of view. I just hope the system gets better.”
Dadgar thinks that the All-Grade POW could be an interesting way to learn. She respects this new experiment and how it helps students across grades.
“I honestly think it’s a good idea. It’s unique. All of the students, even though they are learning different things, are doing one problem. I’ve never seen that before. I appreciate that it feels different from a traditional class setting,” Dadgar said.
According to Rabina, the goal is to help students develop their math skills. This new method focuses on more student interactions, and therefore more learning.
“The goal is to help students’ minds grow in many ways. We want to expand their toolbox,” Rabina said. “It’s all about how can we help our students build their mathematical tools. They can learn a lot from us teachers, but they can also learn so much more from their fellow peers.”