Problem Solving Boredom: Motivate Them With Real Life FUN

Problem Solving Boredom: Motivate Them with Real Life FUN

Third graders are so wonderfully and naturally creative. One day we were working through yet another problem of the day from our textbook (I could see the life from recess draining from their faces), and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I felt as though the problem was sucking the creativity right out of the room.

It was mid winter, which if you live in the northern half of the US or Canada, you know how loooonnnngg that feels. The students were restless and bored with problem solving. I needed to think of something, and of course, with student help I did.

I addressed the winter blahs right then and there. What would help us get out of this funk? We started to think of things that are fun. The first thing on the list? A party.

Of course a party would help!

That is when it clicked. Party planning is a very complex task, but requires basic math. This makes it a perfect problem for third graders to solve.

That was what started the Party Planning Awesomeness project.

First, we needed a budget. The students were so excited about the fact that we were having a party that everyone brought in a dollar. The budget was locked in at $25.

I spent a few days giving structured mini lessons (brainstorming, adding decimals, deciphering grocery store flyers) during our problem solving time. After that I turned them loose. I was floored by the thinking that happened. Here were some of the amazing things they planned:

  • They made sacrifices. One student skipped the paper plates for a few more Capri Sun pouches. “Who needs paper plates anyway? What a waste!”
  • They planned to save money on decorations by hanging student artwork in the room.
  • They wanted to play great music from their own iPods (as long as it was clean).
  • They planned great games and activities, even scheduling them down to the minute so that it didn’t go over the allotted party time.

Every student in the classroom had a plan, glued and colored up a piece of construction paper to communicate that plan…and we all voted on the best one. The best one turned into an actual party.

Giving them the chance to solve problems and think through complex life situations, all while having the motivation of a party was exactly what they needed.

And…don’t tell them, but it was fun for me, too!


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