My Growing Collection of Video Story Problems

It just occurred to me this evening that while I’ve been creating and posting a video story problem every week or so for the last few months, I haven’t really put them all in one place yet. Which is a shame really, as I think they’re actually getting better… least, I hope they are.

I’ve managed to settle on a nice simple way to end most of the videos, by asking the questions “How do you set up the problem?” and “What information do you need?” As an elementary educator, one of the most important elements when working with numbers, mathematics, and story problems, is being able to assess a situation, weed out the extraneous information, and focus on what you need to solve the problem. It’s not that this doesn’t take place at the secondary level, it’s just that I find the curiosities and puzzles that I come across in my life tend to revolve around math that most learners have mastered by the time they’re 11 or 12. Yes, yes, my latest video story problem (integrals & yarn) was a real bear, forcing me to consult with some rather bright Calculus teachers just to set the problem up, let alone attempt to solve it. I’m actually excited to start branching out and creating more of these, but I’m not quite sure I have the formula down yet….or even if there’s a formula at all.

This much I know; I want the problems to be authentic, and to that end all of the video story problems I’ve created have been born out of a genuine question or thought that popped into my head. I also want them to be engaging, brief, and not a complete “walk in the park” when it comes to solving them. In fact, if the problems don’t have a definitive answer, I think that would be terrific, maybe even force students and teachers to ask their own questions. In the end though, I want them to be something that teachers can take off the shelf and use in a pinch, but will ultimately encourage them to bring a bit more of their own world into their classroom.

It really isn’t that difficult or time consuming. Yes, I do some editing, and add a few helpful titles, numbers, and other textual clues, but that takes all of 5 minutes in iMovie. The real time consuming piece is stopping to reflect on a situation or encounter in which I use math, but perhaps don’t even realize what I’ve done until the moment is passed (i.e. figuring out how much it’s going to fill up my gas tank this week, or halving a pancake recipe on a Saturday morning).

In a classroom however, the time is no longer an issue. With 25 to 30 eager film makers and a couple of digital cameras (which most schools usually have lying around), you can send your students out on a scavenger hunt for everyday math problems, or even assign video story problems as homework over the weekend. With that much filming going on, it would be just a matter of the collecting the video, exporting it to a computer, and then publishing it to an internal network where students could explore not just the math around them, but also presentation and communication skills. You could even collaborate with a language arts teacher to get the students thinking about simple scripting, considering audience, and developing your own video story telling “voice”!

But I digress. I started this post meaning to show you what I’ve created thus far, and so I will end with just that. Below is my current collection of video story problems. Please feel free to beg, borrow, and steal the idea, but if you do, kindly leave me a comment on how I might improve upon the concept for the future.