Teacher Review For Art of Problem Solving

Deep, complex problem solving to challenge gifted learners

Heather D.
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Helios School
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My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies
My Rating 5
Learning Scores
Engagement 5
Pedagogy 5
Support 4
My Students Liked It Yes
My Students Learned Yes
I Would Recommend It Yes
Setup Time 5-15 minutes
Great for Further application
Knowledge gain
Small group
Student-driven work
Whole class
Great with Advanced learners
How I Use It
At our school for gifted children, we utilize the Art of Problem Solving curriculum with students at a pre-algebra level and above (we currently offer through geometry at our K-8 school, and will be extending to higher levels next year and beyond as needed). It is used as class curriculum and learning is led by a teacher, but the set-up of the curriculum also supports individualized, self-paced learning. Some of our students take advantage of this. When necessary because of the high level of students, we also offer a hybrid class option where students may take an Art of Problem Solving course online through their online school and we also count this for credit at our school. The additional support of the Alcumus online learning platform (free to all) provides excellent problems with worked answers and an opportunity for students to track their progress online.
My Take
Our gifted math students love this program - it is complex, deep, comprehensive, challenging, rich, and fun. It is true that it doesn't offer a lot of "real world" connections for mathematics, but I don't see this as a downside for our students. Some students might need this to engage with math, but highly gifted math students, in my experience of working with this program for several years with many students at our school, love going deep with the math for the sake of the math. They don't need connections to cell phone plans or coupons to develop interest in the topic. There are relatively few practice problems (again, a positive when working with gifted learners) and they build in complexity very quickly. Alcumus and the problems in the book offer excellent challenges. Consistently, there are problems that challenge me and other math teachers at our school. And feedback I get from home is that parents who are math majors, computer science majors, programmers at technology companies, etc. have the same experience - they consistently find problems that challenge them. The only reason that I did not give this program 5 stars on "Support" is because I believe that this program is not equally successful for all learners - some students need topics to be broken down and scaffolded more than is provided by this program. Some students may need more practice problems or more hands-on activities to learn mathematics. Some may need more of the "real world" applications in their math learning to be engaged. For our students, however, this program is ideal.