## Table Talk

You don’t teach students the problem-solving strategy of Organize the Information: Make a Table by having them “complete the table.”

The activity “That’s Sum Challenge!” from AIMS asks “What sums from one to 25 can by obtained by adding two, three, four, five, or six consecutive numbers?”

One ofÂ the student pages looks like this:

I’ve designed thisÂ type of thing before. Fortunately, there’s a quick fix: ask the question, allow students time to work on the problem, ask the groupsâ€“or regroup and ask the classâ€“”How can we organize this information?”

Likely, students’Â tables won’t match the one above. Some students will probably make a table for two consecutive numbers, then three, and so on. To highlight the impossible sums, the helpfulÂ folks at AIMSÂ have done the work of merging these tables into one. In their defence, kinda, the teacher pages has this under “Management”:

If you have a class that functions well with open-ended problems, you can explain the problem to them and have them solve it without using the student pages.

Subtracting the tableÂ engages more students at more levels. From “two consecutive numbersÂ are always even and odd (or odd and even) and that gives us all the odd sums” to “the sums made by adding three consecutive numbers are all multiples of three” to “powers of two cannot be obtained becauseâ€¦,” each studentÂ can contribute to answering the key question “What sums can be obtained by adding consecutive numbers?” (The ellipsis is there becauseÂ the reason isn’t immediately obvious to me.)

In the past, I had it back-asswards. Take the “How many different possible meal combinations are there on the kidsÂ¹ menu?” problem. I’d give ’em tables and tree diagrams up front. A problem became practice. Once I “turned the tables” and allowed students time to get started, I could later ask groupsÂ to share their tables or I could step in at just the right time with tree diagrams to help make sense of spaghetti nightmares.

Â¹Kid’s? Kids’? This is why I’m not a prolific blogger.

Recommended: “You Can Always Add. You Can’t Subtract.” Ctd. by Dan Meyer