So, just how much pasta could I cook in an Olympic-sized pool?

# Differentiation TechniqueFuzzy Problems

## Read The OverviewFuzzy Problems

Fuzzy Problems are, quite simply, the types of problems we face in our regular lives. Issues that have no best answer and no single path to a solution. Problems that are missing information and require best guesses. They're the kinds of problems we want our students to grapple with.

## Specific Examples of “Fuzzy Problems”

## The Marshmallow Challenge

A fantastic fuzzy problem to start the year. Students use pasta and tape to try to get a marshmallow up as high as possible.

## The Coloring Problem

How *few* colors can you use to fill in a map so that no neighboring regions are the same color?

## Which One is Not Like The Others?

When we ask kids “which one is not like the others”, our cleverest students love to find ways to pick the non-obvious answer. So why not use this as a framework for pushing students deeper into our content.

## Synonym Graphs

Use a two-dimensional scatter plot to dig into the nuances of several synonyms.

## Creating Seemingly Unrelated Analogies

Want to encourage students to find unexpected connections across content? Here’s a quick framework based on the most important terms from both bits of content.

## Word Pyramids – A Delightful Vocabulary Puzzle

A fun, abstract vocab puzzle in which students can add one letter per line, forming a pyramid of words.

## Phrases to Open Up a Discussion (Lunar Survival Skills Part 2)

One of my favorite open-ended, creative activities becomes even better with careful phrasing on my part. These three questions will help you be the facilitator of a discussion, rather than the authority.

## What Could You Do With This Pancake Flipping Robot?

I love videos of robots messing up tasks. This one in particular struck a chord, because we get to see the robot learn from his mistakes. Let’s have students write him some advice…

## Academic Love Letters

We’re going to take the Academic Valentine idea from earlier, and extend it into a full blown love letter – just in time for Valentine’s Day!

## Puzzle: Antonym Paths

Begin with a small, simple word and identify its antonym. Then, take this second word and find *its* antonym. Many times, you’ll find that an antonym of an antonym isn’t always related the original word.

## An Image for Divergent Thinking Practice

I think this is an interesting way to practice our students’ divergent thinking skills. What else could this trash can’s icon represent?

## Olympic Medal Math Project

In the paper, I read about Norway’s dominance of the Winter Olympics, despite being a tiny country. I love this juxtaposition of unexpected data! Let’s turn it into a math project. Here are some questions I thought of…

## Math Project: Shrinking Airline Seats

What kind of math project could you build based on the shrinking dimensions of seats on the Boeing 777?

## Puzzle: Words Within Words

In need of some nice word puzzles that will keep your students busy? Ask them to find as many words as they can within another word. For example: can you find 10 words made from the letters in “soldier”? How about 20? 50?

## Big Gifts, Small Prices

What if you want to buy a big gift that’s cheap for its size? By calculating the volume of the object, we can find how much each cubic inch costs. Measured by price per volume, Thomas is 250 times more expensive than a big outdoor slide!

## Math Project: Box Office Totals

As a teenager, I loved monitoring the weekend’s box office results. This kind of data is exciting, oozing with built in conflict. It sets up questions that require math to answer.

## Math Project: Disneyland Parking Structure

Let’s develop a math project to challenge students who have demonstrated a mastery of multiplication and are ready to explore its applications. We’ll count the parking spaces in the Disneyland parking structure!

## Halloween: Characters Dressed As Characters

What if characters from film or literature dress up like other characters based on some parallel such as: conflict, trait, accomplishment, etc.

## Symbolism and Pixel Art

Symbolism, a mainstay of literature discussion, seems too abstract and ephemeral to teach to younger students. However, with a well-constructed lesson, students will quickly get the hang of symbolic representation. We’ll finish this unit up with some great pixel-art and computer painting.

## Math Project: Furnish A Hotel

Starting with an IKEA catalog, a hotel furnishing math project was born. Use this project as a tool to differentiate your math instruction and impart some practical knowledge on your students.

## The Tragedy of the Commons

Imagine that we all share a common resource, but no one is really in charge. How do we maintain order without an authority? This is a fantastically fuzzy situation for students to dig into.

## Lunar Survival Skills

We’re supposed to rank fifteen items according to usefulness if we were stranded on the light-side of the moon. The items range from pistols to powdered milk. Some seem useful, but are actually worthless while others seem unnecessary on earth, but are actually vital when stuck on the moon. However, the structure of the activity as a website is not optimal. Let’s improve this and make it an awesome problem–solving exercise for our class.

## Review: Challenging Units for Gifted Learners

While at NAGC 2010, the most exciting session I attended was put on by Ken Smith and Susan Stonequist. They outlined a geometry unit in which their students built a working miniature golf course. I was thrilled to hear that this unit was just one part of an upcoming series of books. Last week, I received copies of the series, called Challenging Units for Gifted Learners.

## Solving An Authentic Classroom Problem: The Desk Arrangement

How often do you give your gifted students the opportunity to solve authentic, relevant problems? What is more authentic to a student than solving classroom problems? And what excites students more than having ownership over the classroom seating? Here’s an authentic problem solving idea that ties in public speaking skills, group work, and classroom ownership.