What Goes on in Sixth Grade Math? A Voice From the Inside Reports
By Jackson H., Sixth Grader
Math, math, math. As sixth graders, we have a full first semester to make sure we’re ready for the ISEE, our admissions test. That includes reviewing fractions, decimals, and studying probability, data, and beginning algebra with one and two-step equations. It keeps us busy! But as we’re cramming all these new concepts into our heads, Dr. Pacelli, manages to lighten things up with something called a “challenge packet.”
This packet contains fun and challenging problems that usually do not pertain to what we are learning in our lessons, but they allow us to exercise the ability to think in different ways in order to solve the problems. Our challenge packet problems come from old math contests. They can be old Olympiad math contests, or sometimes old Noetic math contests. Olympiad and Noetic problems are designed to fool you and force you to think outside of the box. So when we do the problems, it employs different math skills, like higher reasoning and strategic thinking, verses more basic skills like applying formulas and solving equations. This is fun and helps us develop other math skills that help us with our math curriculum.
An example of a problem we had in the challenge packet is a problem called the “Handshake Problem,” and variations of it. The handshake problem asks you: If there are X people in a room, and they all shake hands with each other exactly once, how many handshakes would occur? We have done a lot of work on problems like these and worked on formulas for them and different ways of solving them. This example displays how the challenge packet problems actually help our math, because at first they seemed like a waste of time. But they add important math and logic skills that we definitely need to help us succeed in math class.