Problems of the Week: Math Department Adds a POW to Weekly Classes

Sarah McAuliffe '17

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Montrose’s Math Department introduced a new cross-curricular program this year called Problem of the Week, also known as “POWs.” A POW is a weekly word problem that usually requires some intense thought and time. Mrs. Sun explained, “The Math Department started using POWs as a way to help students develop flexible problem solving skills.” POWs are word problems that involve real-life scenarios that students can relate to outside of school.

Most students agree that POWs do have some benefits such as practice for the SATs and other standardized tests. Catherine Conroy ‘16 states, “ I am very well prepared to take the SATs because of the POWs that we have been doing in math class.” When completing the POWs, students have to think about the process of solving the problem and not just focus on the answer. Mrs. White states, “ I assign POWs because it forces students to stretch themselves. It’s not so much about getting the right answer, but being able to think about it and do the process to get the answer.”

Additionally, math teachers generally see their students succeeding at POWs and learning useful skills. Mrs. Sun said, “I’ve seen most students successfully manage long-term assignments and solve advanced problems.” Generally, the POW has a positive effect on the work habits of some Montrose students by encouraging the virtues of intellectual tenacity and thoroughness.

Ultimately, the purpose of education is to educate students in a way that they can utilize the skills that they learn inside of school to their life outside of school. POWs are an excellent source way to develop the kind of problem-solving skills that are practical and essential to real-life.

The brain-stretching work of POWs leave some students frustrated. Nathalie Falcao ‘17 said, “I do not think that POWs are relevant to math class because they have nothing to do with what we are learning in class.” The POWs tend to be long word problems, and it is challenging to pick out the important details. Because POWs require independent work and pacing, keeping up with these tasks challenges some students.

Overall, POWs are assigned to students as a way to broaden their math and problem-solving skills outside of what they currently learn in the classroom. Teachers  intend the POWs to be a way for each student to apply the skills that they learn in math class to real-life scenarios that require some intense thinking. Some students focus on the short-term burdens these extra problems cause while many see the long-term benefits of the POW program.