Weekly Math Poll – Head Start

Welcome to our first #WeeklyMathPoll. These are designed to help stimulate discussions about mathematics while giving you valuable data on your students’ thinking. You can use it as a warm-up, exit ticket or build an entire lesson off of it. Feel free to copy the poll to your account and modify as you see fit. If you want help aligning it to a different grade level, tweet at us @WootMath or email polls@wootmath.com.
Head Start
This week’s math poll is a problem about a foot race between Amy and Spencer. The poll is aimed at getting students to think about multiple solution paths to this rates problem. The answer can be given in either distance or time for the head start. Also, feel free to discuss questions like acceleration time or assigning different start locations to make the race close. 
Initial Problem Statement

The first question accepts answers with or without units (we want to give more entry points for success, feedback on units can come separately). If you want to assess the units, feel free to modify the accepted answers or create a task that asks them what the units should be if the answer is 20. You can also review student work and praise someone for getting the right answer, then praise someone else for using the right units.

This task also has a custom legend of common responses so if a student gets the number correct but spells the unit word wrong, they will be coded as blue (misspelled seconds but still had a 5 in their answer) or yellow (misspelled meters but still had a 20 in their answer). This can let you decide how important spelling is and distinguish spelling fluency from mathematical fluency. Better data means better feedback.

The following table also presents some examples of student strategies for task 1. Student A has given the correct answer in meters, shown their work and used fractions to solve the problem. Student B has divided the distance by each rate to find the time for each to finish. Student C has done similarly but using s for Spencer’s time and a for Amy’s time.

We encourage you to use the display student work feature to review examples in a whole class setting. This lets students see that they are not alone and that others can make similar errors or take different but also valid approaches to the same problem.

The next task asks them to tap on the line that represents Spencer’s distance to the finish line over time. Answers close to the convergence point are not accepted because we want students to select an answer where we know which line they mean, not one answer that could be interpreted as multiple lines.

Graph of Race

This task also has the opportunity for you to discuss what would happen if you extend Amy’s line (the blue one) back to the y-intercept. A great question for students who aced this: “If you want them to start at the same time how many meters from the finish line does Amy need to start?” Specify that this is not a head start, it actually means they run different distances so it is more of a handicap than a head start.

The final task has two correct answers, B and D. This is designed as an opportunity for you do have a discussion about why they are both correct. You can talk about how B represents a 5 second delay for Amy and how D represents a race where Amy has to run an extra 25 meters. Students might choose E because of the head start of 20 meters or C because of the 5 second head start.

If a student selects one correct answer, you can ask them to find the other correct answer. You can also present equation B as a horizontal transformation of equation A. This task also goes well with the grouping feature. You can create groups of 2-5 that are assigned randomly, homogeneously or heterogeneously based on correctness of the last response. For this task, students can discuss why they chose the equation they did and hear the perspective of others. If you want a re-vote, simply duplicate this task and they can take it over again after discussion. We encourage you to modify this task and content to align it with similar content. You can copy the poll and modify or delete any task and also make new ones. Please reach out with any questions or comments, we’re here to support you! Get started by previewing the poll right now, or login to wootmath.com and search for the Head Start poll in the Shared Gallery. Visit our page on Formative Assessment for more information on implementing these strategies in your classroom. Stay tuned for next week’s poll!


Wiliam, D., & Thompson, M. (2008). Integrating assessment with instruction: What will it take to make it work? Future of assessment: Shaping teaching and learning.

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