Problem-Based Learning

Upon first investigating Problem-Based Learning (PrBL) in 2013, I deemed it to be Project-Based Learning's little sister. The two are very similar in many ways, but Problem-Based learning appears to be tied more closely to just one content and context at a time. Instead of a large essential question that we have to tackle through multiple avenues in a project, it seems to be a more condensed open-ended, open-to-interpretation single-subject style problem. Reading Magdalene Lampert's Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching, and subsequent books about using PrBL, I determined I had a solution to our math-trouble woes. You can't always take a math concept and make an authentic and engaging real-world applicable project that needs it, but you can make engaging open-ended problems that students can work on in multiple ways.

Problem-Based Learning is not just handing out your typical story problem from the back of your book (though they may have good starters!), it is about presenting an issue to your class, using protocols such as "I Notice, I Wonder" to start investigating the problem at hand, and then working through the Problem Solving Process to generate one or multiple solutions. Problem-Based Learning doesn't just end when one solution has been found; as the problems are generally open-to-interpretation and solutions are based off of one persons problem-solving process, it is quite possible that a problem used in Problem-Based learning could have more than one solution or more than one way to getting to the same solution. The fascinating part appears to be watching students discover why.

Problem-Based learning evokes many of the same things I want my students to get from Project-based learning: an inquisitive mind, a productive-struggle to learn, critical thinking and analysis of information. As such, it seems to be the perfect complement to a Project-Based Learning school.

For more information on the difference between Project-Based Learning and Problem-Based learning, check out bie's article: Project-Based Learning vs. Problem-Based Learning vs XBL

Problem-Based Learning Resources:

Math Forum @ Drexel: Problems of the Week

Emergent Math CCSS PrBL Mapping

Math Pickle

Mathematics Assessment Project
NRICH Mathematics

Other Awesome Websites to Support PrBL:
Math Counts
Dan Meyer's Three Act Tasks