Making Lemonade: Conundrums


The last year has thrown us a lot of lemons!!! Fortunately, for our students, we dedicated professional math teachers have risen to the occasion and made millions of gallons of lemonade!!! One of my latest lemons came with our new High School hybrid schedule that has us teaching six ten minutes periods on Zoom with no break in between. I feel that I have a responsibility to make every minute with my students matter so this had me scrambling for a bit. Luckily (for a lot of reasons) I am married to an incredible 2nd grade teacher.  This allows us to share, borrow and adapt ideas. She is an avid Class Dojo fan and while I don’t use the platform itself I have used some of their mindset videos in the past. A couple of months ago she showed me some of their new conundrum videos and these turned out to be just the sweetener I needed to turn this particular lemon.

Astra Nova school has made two seasons (14 videos) of these approximately 1 minute Conundrum videos.   They propose a scenario and then ask students to make a decision between a few options. Any of the options can be justified and there is no right or wrong answer. It really doesn’t matter which option (or Team) they choose, just that they make a decision and come up with a viable argument as to why they support it.  This benefits students in multiple ways. First, modern brain research tells us that the simple act of making a decision stimulates and grows the problem solving part of our brain. Second, developing their argument skills adds value to their lives no matter what path their journey takes them on. In math we use arguments for proofs, lawyers make arguments in court and effective salespeople are good at making the argument that you should buy their product now, to name a few.

Once class begins I read aloud some of the arguments (anonymously) for each choice from their previous class.  This gives us the opportunity to celebrate their work and remind them that all work has value. After a couple of minutes I play the video, reiterate the choices and reinforce the value of the lesson by tying it back to something that has meaning in their lives (hopefully!!! LOL). At this point students have already opened the Google form and are filling out their choices and arguments. During the last few seconds I remind them to write at least two complete sentences and ask them to share their choice in the chat box.

I created a Google form for this because it’s easy in google classroom and it creates a Google sheet with the results. The Google sheet allows me to sort it by period and name so that I can use it for attendance and read all of the responses quickly at a glance. Everyone that attempts it gets credit and with the thoughtful celebration of some of the previous weeks responses it serves as a tool of growth. I’ve really been amazed at my students’ excitement, engagement and growth in the quality of their arguments already.  

I can see adding this activity to my fun intro tool kit even when we get back to normal. Check it out and maybe my lemonade will work for you and you students!!! I’ve added links below to a folder with the Blue Comet Conundrum form in it which you can make a copy of and for the video on Youtube . I hope you dig it!!!