Find What You Aren’t Looking For First!

I like to challenge my students. One way that I like to challenge them is through tricky diagrams and pictures. I don’t want every problem to be straight forward. I always tell my math students that sometimes you must find something you aren’t looking for in order to find what you ARE looking for. Since I teach 9th graders, I’m trying to get them out of the mode of thinking that all problems should be easy to figure out. I love watching them really think, but it tends to be frustrating when you have those students that want to ask you about every single problem or want you to stand at their desk and watch them so they can ask you questions. I’ve learned to give them a good 5 to 10 minutes of independent thinking time, then I’ll let them compare what they have so far with a partner. I’ll watch and listen to the conversations to gauge what to do next. If they are still struggling, I may give them a hint. Sometimes I’ll play the game where the only answers that I can give are yes or no. This will help them learn to ask good questions. Below are some examples of the types of problems that I’m talking about. If students get used to doing these types of problems, they will be excellent problem solvers and even though a problem may stump them, they will have the experience to know that if they stay after it, they can eventually figure it out.

This is from my Circles: Special Angles and Segments Resource

This problem is from my Law of Sines and Cosines Resource. 

I call this one, the Poodle Problem. It is in my Trig Unit.

This problem is from my Special Right Triangle Unit. 

The great thing about these problems is I’ve made them easy to grade. You know real quick if they’ve worked the problem correctly or not.

After a year of these types of problems, I’m hoping to see improvement in my student’s college entrance scores and EOC scores. I know that this will also help with their growth mindsets. I feel like this is definitely a win/win!

Law of Sines and Cosines


Published by


Math teacher dedicated to sharing teacher tips, ideas and resources.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s