What is Problem of the Day?


In my classroom Problem of the Day for math is an instructional routine that helps students achieve deeper learning through inquiry and exploration of mathematical ideas. Okay, so real talk– it’s a routine we use everyday so kids can THINK deeply about math. The routine is simple, but the potential is insurmountable.

Problem of the Day is based on the research of Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI). CGI is a student-centered approach to teaching math. It is based on the assumption that children already have a lot of intuitive number sense & problem solving capabilities. This approach is responsive to students through listening closely to their thinking, asking questions, and engaging them in sharing their thinking with peers. The goal is always deeper learning through expanding their mathematical understandings. 


Why use Problem of the Day for Math?

Well, to be honest with you it took me a while to be convinced to give Problem of the Day a try. It went against everything I had previously done in math– one problem vs. multiple practice problems, a lot of time for students to talk (even if they are wrong), not directly teaching students how to solve. However, once I finally took the leap of faith and tried Problem of the Day I almost immediately noticed a change in my students. Students were engaged, excited, and willing to participate. Math quickly became everyone’s favorite part of the day. 

In my second year of implementing Problem of the Day my students made 2 and 3 years worth of gains in their math scores on the standardized test. Nothing beats the smiles on faces of kids that just surpassed a growth goal in June they had no hope of meeting in August. Disclaimer- standardized tests are not the only way (or even the main way) I help students track their growth. Almost every year my students are so validated as they click through the test questions with confidence that they can solve any and every problem. 


Too often before I started using Problem of the Day students were defeated by tests. They had no confidence or skills to tackle challenging problems, let alone 40 in a single test. My students would put their heads down, click random answers and generally just not try. But that all changed when my students learned to grapple during Problem of the Day! I believe this is due to the mindset we build through out the year of embracing challenges. We learn to grapple with challenging problems and develop a mindset of welcoming challenges. Because after all, our brain doesn’t grow unless we are faced with a challenge.

Find out more about how my teaching changed when I started using this routine here. 


The Routine for Problem of the Day in Math

The routine is simple and one you can start implementing immediately. Here are the parts: 

  1. Launch the problem 
  2. Grapple time (independent work) & teacher observes
  3. Share: 2-3 students share their work 
  4. Discourse: students discuss the strategies and models that were used to solve the problem.

Each piece of this routine is strategically planned to ensure students are doing the thinking. I like to say students are in the driver seat, but I have the map. I’m the navigator– not the driver. 

If you want the full details on the routine, the lesson plan and all my tips and tricks I put them all together in this implementation guide.

What about Assessment?

I have assessed students problem solving in many ways, but what I have found the most successful is engaging students in the assessment. When students self assess with a criteria they know well they develop investment in their own learning. We all know that when students are invested in their learning engagement increases and in turn understanding increases. 

I have created 8 student friendly rubrics that I use with my students to help them reflect on different Mathematical Practice Standards. Each of these 8 rubrics are included in every Problem of the Day monthly packs. 


Get your free guide right here!

problem of the day for math

Can This Work Online?

the short answer is yes. Frankly, I am doing Problem of the Day in my 100% virtual classroom. Is it perfect, nope… but nothing is. I’d love to invite you to see exactly how I’m doing this virtually. Check out this video of my virtual classroom. 

Be sure to check out this article on Virtual Math Discussions. 

 Also, there is a bonus of HOW to do Problem of the Day online in the Implementation Guide. Grab your free copy of the guide above.

Where do I get the Problems?

This is the classic question. Literally, everyone asks this question when they watch my lessons. I first encourage you to go to your curriculum and see if there are any high quality math tasks there. 

I have monthly packs of Problem of the Day ready to go for each grade level 1st – 5th launch March 5th on Teachers Pay Teachers.  

Grab the monthly pack for your grade level here: 

1st Grade

2nd Grade

3rd Grade

4th Grade

5th Grade

Create the Classroom where Students' Thinking is at the Center

Now this works best in your classroom that is Student- Centered.
Not sure what I mean by that? A student-centered classroom is one where students’ thinking is prioritized and placed at the center of the learning experiences. A student-centered classroom is at its core a strong classroom community where students are invested in their learning because of their choice and ownership in the classroom. 
Intrigued? Want to learn more about how I design my Student-Centered math class? Grab my Free eBook! 


I can’t wait to hear about what you think of Problem of the Day! I hope you can use this in your classroom to engage students and develop deep understanding in your students. 

Please let me know what questions come up for you and if I can support you in anyway! 

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