Problem-Based Learning: The Other PBL

Meet the Makers

Amber Soto, Director of Mathematics Instruction, Implementation and Improvement

What is your favorite thing to do to unwind?

In the spirit of problem-solving, I really do enjoy a good puzzle! Believe it or not, it is relaxing for me! Whether it is a jigsaw puzzle, crossword puzzle, nonogram, sudoku, whodunnit…and ESPECIALLY if it is an Escape Room (my FAVORITE!). I just really enjoy the process of “figuring things out”. Oh, and don’t get me started on the current “Wordle” craze (and all the variations that come with it)…I love it! I should also add that nature, in general, is very calming for me. If I can be outside, in beautiful weather, listening to the ocean, watching birds in the trees, or enjoying a sunset, I am happy. I have always just found so much peace in things like that!  

What is something you are proud of?

I am grateful for a lot of things in my life. But at this particular moment in time, I am really, REALLY proud of my child! The pandemic hit them particularly hard and we have had a couple rough years. However, things are slowly getting better. They are starting to find joy again. They just landed the solo, “I’m Just A Bill” for the “SchoolHouse Rock Live” play that is being done at their school. Additionally, this weekend they will be flying a glider as a part of the Glider Project! They are SUPER excited! A fun quote from this past week, “Mom, wouldn’t it be cool if I got my pilot’s license BEFORE my driver’s license? Could you imagine me rolling up to school in a Cessna?”  Haha!  I love that kid!

What is the “why” for this week’s Making Magic?

Project-Based Learning can be difficult to implement in the world of secondary math. In an article shared via Making Magic a few weeks ago, it was written, “Not every attempt at project-based learning worked. The Lucas foundation originally tried to finance the development of a project-based curriculum to teach math. But it was ‘put on ice’ and never evaluated, De Vivo said. De Vivo explained that ‘it’s much harder to come up with good projects for teaching abstract math concepts and skills.'”  

This is not to say that it is impossible. In fact, at iLEAD we have already seen some incredible projects accomplished involving math. However, it is important to be familiar with the other (research-backed) PBL — PROBLEM-Based Learning. This has seen some incredible results and seems to be a lot easier to implement consistently in secondary math spaces!

This Week’s Focus

Driving Question

How can we help our learners to better understand and appreciate the practical applications of math?

In the real world, we are rarely handed a nice, neat math problem to solve.  The problems we are given are almost always MESSY and nuanced within a particular context. To be successful in life, our learners need to be able to problem-solve by decoding the given scenario. They then need to deploy appropriate tools that can be directly applied in solving the problem. Equally, our learners will be more successful in learning spaces, and on assessments, if they are given the opportunity to practice math within the context of real-world application and problem-solving. Enter the other PBL: Problem-Based Learning!


Being Makers

Being Makers

Being Makers is a team of change-making leaders from Maker Learning Network and iLEAD Schools focused on project-based learning and social-emotional growth.
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