User Guide | exSTEMsions

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User Guide

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  • Using the Site 3
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  • This Week 1
  • Archive 1
  • Support 2
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Getting started

Welcome to exSTEMsions! If you're reading this, you might have just joined, and might be looking for some direction on what to do next. Here are some suggestions on how to get started!

Once you sign in to the site, the main navigation menu is on the top left of your screen, anchored by the X in the white circle. Click the X to open or close the navigation menu. The icons on the menu are as follows:

1. Dashboard: this is where everything begins! From the Dashboard, you can access your account (and your badges!), your Solved Problems, and Notifications. To learn more about the Dashboard, click here: How do we use the Dashboard?

2. This Week: this is the heart of exSTEMsions. This Week is where you'll find the Problem of the Week, and all its related tools and support. To learn more about This Week, click here: How do we use 'This Week'?

3. Archive: the Archive is where you can access all of your Problems that aren't from This Week! To learn more about the Archive, and the treasures it holds, click here: What is 'The Archive'? 

4. Support: this is where you come for help! From Support you can access our private Facebook group, or one-on-one Support. To learn more about how to get help with a problem, click here: What if I need help with a Problem?. If you are looking for support that isn't Problem-related and need some direction, click here: What if I have a non-Problem related question?

5. Blog: our blog is all about how and why we learn math. Why does asking questions matter? Why shouldn’t the word ‘geometry’ cause one to shiver? How does math pop up in our world? Why are playing cards a great mathematical learning tool? You’ll have to keep up with the blog to find out! Click here to read the blog: The exSTEMsions Blog

If you've forgotten how some of our Resources work, you can click the green question mark inside of the white bubble at the bottom left of your screen to access this User Guide. 

Once you've finished with your session, you can sign out of the site by clicking on your avatar at the top right-hand side of the screen. 

We're so glad you're here. If you have questions, or there is any way we can be of help as you work your way through your exSTEMsions experience, please don't hesitate to contact us at support@exstemsions.com.

Ready to get to work? Click here to head back to your problems!

FAQs

How do you access an exSTEMsions Problem?

Each week, we post our new problem-solving journey at midnight on Sunday. You’re welcome to get started as soon as it posts! You can do this by logging into your account at exstemsions.com  - you’ll automatically be brought to the newest Problem. On Monday, you’ll get an email reminder that the new Problem has appeared, with a link that you can use to log in right from the email.


Once the Problem posts, how does my family work on it?

When you log in, you’ll be brought to the latest Problem.  (If you happen to be elsewhere in your account, head over to This Week in your Dashboard for access.)   Begin the Problem by carefully reading it! Once you and your child have read through the Problem a few times, make sure your child really understands what they are being asked to explore. From there, all your child needs is a brain, some paper, and a pencil… start solving! Some problems come with materials to download - feel free to print those out and use them as you work.

As our problem experiences are web-based, this makes it easy to work from wherever you and your child are, whether you’re accessing our site from a computer, a tablet, or your phone.  

And we don’t ask you to type any answers into the site, because our problem-stories don’t have answers, they have Solutions.  The Solutions are there for you to dip into wherever you feel like, whenever you’re ready, to inform your understanding, or just to check it.  This is not meant to be a torturous experience, but a relaxed adventure!

The Problem, along with its Exstemsion problem, both Solutions, and all the supporting tools are there for you, however you choose to use them, every week.


Why should I pay for exSTEMsions when I can sign up with another company for a problem-of-the-week for free?

exSTEMsions is WAY more than a problem a week. Each week, we post a new, expert-teacher crafted journey for you and your child, that will help develop and strengthen vital math, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Each Problem truly is a unique and original journey through amazing mathematics - you won’t find anything like this anywhere else.

Every successful journey requires at least a few tools, and our problem-solving journeys are no exception.  We want to provide you with a complete, enriching experience every week. And that takes a bit of doing!

Each Problem comes with an additional Exstemsion problem, that extends or riffs on the ideas of the Problem; each problem comes with a user-friendly Solution.  The Math Category lets you know the kind of math you’ll be thinking about, and the Thinking Skills clue you in on how you’ll be thinking about it.  Our Supporting Questions give you the language to help your child when s/he most needs it.  And when you’re finished both problems, you’ll check out the Big Ideas that will wrap up the whole experience in a nice little package.  All this, every week!

Click here (and scroll down to “Our Tools”) to get a brief overview of all the pieces to each Problem experience, and click here to read about everything in a little more detail.


What if we finish a Problem before the end of the week?  Is there anything else we can work on?

Definitely! Depending on the plan you choose when you join exSTEMsions, you will have access to our complete problem Archive, providing your family with access to many more problem-solving adventures!

And with the archive, you can choose your own adventure!  Feel like sticking to geometry problems? You can do that.  Interested in probability and statistics? Then stick to those for a little while.  And then there are the many problems that just can’t be classified so easily. They’re all really fun and different… you’ll want to experience every one!


Will I, as a parent who is not a math teacher, really be able to do this with my child?

YES! You don’t have to love math, or be a math expert or teacher, to use exSTEMsions successfully.  We wrote it for inquisitive parents and children. We wrote it for families who are open to new and fun challenges, and all the excitement that kind of learning can bring.  

We didn’t write this for experts!  We wrote it for people who maybe are a little afraid of math, but definitely aren’t afraid to become the experts!  And you will!

And if you get really stuck? We’re here to help - reach out to members of our community through our private Facebook group, or directly to the exSTEMsions team. You can do this, and we’ve got your back if you need us!


Why should I trust exSTEMsions to give me awesome and unique mathematics?

exSTEMsions was created by content experts who honed their craft through teaching! Together, Sara and Elizabeth have more than 35 years of experience in mathematics and math education.  Our CEO has a Master’s Degree in math and science education. Our Chief Content Officer has two Masters’ Degrees: one in mathematics, and another in math education. They are also both parents, who understand the value of instilling a love of math, and strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, in their own children.  For more details on who we are, click here.

The goal of exSTEMsions flows quite naturally from the experiences and beliefs of the people behind it: to enable parents, the people who know their children best, to help their children develop the vital skills that will serve them well in school now, and in their future lives and careers as well.


Honestly… I’m still not sure it’s right for my family….

Then sign up for our Free Trial here, and find out if it is right for you!  You’ll get two full Problem adventures to try for free, for 2 weeks.  No credit card required, just sign up!


How does my membership actually work?

When you join exSTEMsions, you join as a family. One exSTEMsions membership covers one family, including all children. You can join by paying monthly or yearly, at the level of membership that is right for your family. You can see all the options here (about midway down the page). If you ever want to cancel your membership, it must be cancelled prior to the anniversary date (monthly or yearly) of your membership. For additional information, please see our Terms of Use, or email us directly at support@exstemsions.com.

Resources: the overview!

Every week, you're going to get access to a fresh Problem, and each Problem of the Week comes with extensive supports. So where are all of these resources, and what should you do with them? Good question!  All of the resources related to each Problem of the Week are found in the blue Resources menu, found to the right of the Problem. All of our Resources are built to help you work through the Problem, in the way that best suits your needs. Here, we outline what each Resource is, why it has been included, and how it might be used.

First, there is the Math Category.  This will give you a very brief overview of what mathematical topic (or topics) the problem deals with.  This might be a brief word or two, or a few sentences; some problems are easy to pigeonhole, and some aren’t!  The Math Category will give you a bird’s eye view of what you’ll be dealing with in the Problem.

Next, there are the Thinking Skills.  This is a more detailed, but conversational, discussion of the kinds of thinking that will be applied in the problem.  Some of the skills will be specific to the mathematics of the Problem, like visualization.  Other skills deal more with the proper mindset for the Problem, like perseverance.  You can read this section in detail, or you can just skim to get an idea of what you’re in for.  You might want to go back to this as you do the Problem, especially if you are mentoring someone, to inform your own ways of thinking, and the habits of mind you might want to instill in your learner.  You could also simply read this section after the Problem is done, to get our take on what your brain might (or should!) have been doing as you solved the Problem, and inform your thinking for future problem-solving.

The Math Category and Thinking Skills are always accessible with the Problem, as is the Solution, which you can also find in the Resource Menu. Unlike our suggestions for the Math Category and Thinking Skills, we would ask you, even plead with you, NOT to read the Solution immediately. To get the most out of what we offer, it’s worth taking the time to struggle with the Problem, at least for a little while, before you begin to read the Solution.  The Solution typically will come broken up into sections, where each section corresponds to a particular step in the solution. If you are stuck on how to begin the Problem, or just need a little push forward somewhere, you might use the Solution, but only focus on the section you need, rather than read the Solution in its entirety.  (Other than the very first section, the sections will not open until you click on their titles, so you don’t accidentally read something too far along in the Solution that will spoil your thinking fun!) Whatever happens, the Solution is here to help you move forward in your problem-solving; we think that the Solution might sometimes be useful as a hint guide. You, and your learner, can go back and forth between your own problem-solving and the Solution as needed.  Our Problems are involved enough that you can read much of the Solution and still have plenty of thinking left over to be done!  

Of course, you may solve the Problem and not even need to access our Solution for help.  After you are finished, we would still ask that you read the Solution.  First, it’s always nice to see if your solution matches ours, and if it doesn’t, then maybe there’s something more to learn by seeing how we did it, or by comparing the two approaches.  Keep in mind, also, the rest of your experience will often depend on your understanding of how we approached the Solution, as we explain below.

There is also an additional tool found inside of the Solution. Some sections of the Solution will have an orange icon that looks like a book, appearing in the lower right corner of that section.  If you click on it, you will see the Supporting Questions that go with that section.  Sometimes it’s difficult to help someone move forward in her thinking without giving away key parts of the Solution.  If you or your learner is struggling and needs a push, these Questions are here to help encourage thinking along a productive path. These Questions will provide little nudges that you can give to your learner to help him advance through the Problem.  You will also see Supporting Q’s in the Resource Menu, but there you will see all of them collected into one list, section by section.

Once you’re satisfied that you’ve solved the Problem, click the toggle at the top right to mark it SOLVED.  Doing this will unlock the “extension problem”, i.e. the Exstemsion.  It’s best to only tackle this extra problem after you are satisfied that the main Problem is finished, since the Exstemsion problem will often build upon ideas from the main Problem’s Solution.  Then you can treat the Solution to this Exstemsion just like you did for the main Problem; the Exstemsion Solution is accessible immediately, and you can use it for hints if you get stuck, or just read it for your own pleasure, as suits you best.

When you are finished with the Exstemsion, use the toggle at the top right to mark it SOLVED. This will unveil the last components of your experience: the Big Ideas.  This is where we look back at what you did and give you some further insight into the mathematics.  We might give you some interesting history about the Problem and/or Exstemsion, highlight connections to current mathematical trends and research, or explore some of the deeper ideas and theorems that underlie your work that you might not expect.  The Big Ideas should definitely be read after you are comfortable with the Solutions to both the Problem and Exstemsion; the Big Ideas rely on these solutions as their core.

If you have questions or feedback related to any of the Resources that come with our Problems, please don't hesitate to contact us at support@exstemsions.com.

Ready to get to work? Click here to head back to your problems!

How do we use the Dashboard?

The Dashboard is where it all begins! Come to the Dashboard to find the problems you’ve solved, and to return to problems you’d like to think about again. You can reach the Dashboard by clicking the first icon in your exSTEMsions menu bar, at the top left of your screen.

The Dashboard is also where you can manage your account. Under My Account, you're able to edit your profile, and tell us a little more about yourself. You can even upload your own avatar image, by clicking the grey circle above "BASIC INFO".  My Account is also where you manage your subscription AND it's where your badges live. Click on any of your badges to be reminded of the great accomplishment for which you were rewarded! 

You'll also be able to find and check notifications from your Dashboard. This is where we’ll be telling you about new problems, posts, and special events. Keep an eye out, you never know when there will be a surprise! 

If you have questions about this, or any other aspect of exSTEMsions, please don't hesitate to contact us at support@exstemsions.com.  

Ready to get to work? Click here to head back to your Dashboard!

What are badges, and how are they earned?

If you've already started solving problems, you've probably noticed that sometimes you earn badges for your work! You can find all of the badges you've earned to date in your Dashboard, under My Account; below your profile, you'll see a section titled My Badges. 

So, how and when do you earn badges? The 'how' is easy - you earn badges for solving Problems and Exstemsions! The more Problems and Exstemsions you solve, the more badges you'll earn. You earn a badge for solving your first Problem, and then another for solving your first Exstemsion. From there you'll earn new badges at regular intervals - for your 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th Problem solved, and 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th Exstemsion solved. 

How do you earn even MORE badges? Well, you can earn additional badges as you solve multiple problems from different areas of mathematics. The areas are: Visualization, Proving Things, Counting and Number Sense, Algebraic Thinking, Understanding Structure, and Finding Patterns. If you'd like to know what area(s) a problem falls in, check the Archive page under the main navigation menu, where each problem's tags are listed. You'll earn additional badges, beyond those you earn for solving the Problems and Exstemsions, for the 3rd, 10th, 25th and 50th Problem you solve in each category. 

What if you earn all of the badges we have? Then we'll just have to make more! 

Have questions about badges, or any other aspect of exSTEMsions? Feel free to contact us at support@exstemsions.com

Want to check out your badges? Click here to take a look!

How do we use 'This Week'?

Every week there is a new Problem, fittingly known as the Problem of the Week.  You will see it as the second choice in the main navigation menu. When viewing the Problem of the Week, you will notice to the right of the Problem is the blue Resource menu, featuring the Problem’s additional tools. When you access a fresh Problem, you can certainly dive right in if you like, and then access some of the Resources as you need them. In other cases, it might make sense to check out some of the key Resources before you begin your problem-solving. For a quick overview of each of the Resources, click here: Resources: the overview!

How you approach each new problem depends on who you are, and what your goal is. If you are a working with a child, you might review the problem and check out Resources like Thinking Skills and the Math Category before you begin working with your learner, to have a sense of the kind of learning you have in store. Depending on the problem, you might review all or part of the Solution, if you'd like to have a sense of where things are going ahead of time. This is also where you'll find questions you can ask your learner, for if and when they get stuck as they work through different sections of the problem. 

If you are a learner, you may want to jump right into the Problem, and see where it leads. You can also review Resources like the Thinking Skills or Math Category, and even open the Solution. We suggest using the Solution if and when you need it - it opens just one section at a time, so you can use the section you need, when you need it, without ruining the magical feeling that comes when you've worked hard and figured out something awesome for yourself. 

Remember, these are just ideas! You may click anywhere you like, anytime you like - it's totally up to you.  If you want to get to the Big Ideas right away, for example, you can certainly do that, but you will be taking the chance of spoiling the fun of thinking through the problems with your learner, or yourself. 

Have a question? Please contact us at support@exstemsions.com.

Ready to tackle the Problem of the Week? Click here to get solving!

What is 'The Archive'?

The Archive is where you’ll find Problems that aren’t from This Week. It is the third icon from the left in your main navigation menu. Problems listed in the Archive might be ones we posted before you joined, and that are totally new to you, or they may be ones you missed (perhaps you were busy last week, and didn’t quite get to your Problem). If you subscribe at Level 1, your Archive will contain up to one month of problems (solved and unsolved). At Levels 2 and 3, you get the whole set - all of our Problems, since the very beginning!

The Archive is also where you'll be able to see whether each Problem, and its connected Exstemsion, has been Solved, or remains Unsolved. This helps you to know which Problems you've finished completely, which Problems you might have only partially finished, and which Problems you've yet to dig into. 

Another thing that you can find in the Archive is the area of mathematics that each Problem falls into. These are listed on each Problem in the Archive. The areas are Visualization, Proving Things, Counting and Number Sense, Algebraic Thinking, Understanding Structure, and Finding Patterns.  These areas give you a sense of the kinds of math you'll be tackling in any given problem. If you find you really enjoy problems from a certain area, or maybe you'd like more practice in a particular type of math, you can filter by area using the filter at the top of the Archive page. 

Have a question about the Archive, or any other aspect of exSTEMsions? Contact us at support@exstemsions.com.

Ready to take a look at your problems? Click here to head to the Archive!

What if I need help with a Problem?

Everyone needs help from time to time, and when you’re doing math, it’s no different. 

You'll find Support in your exSTEMsions navigation menu, at the top left of your screen. Reach Support by choosing the fourth icon from the left (the life preserver!). Under Support, there are two important ways for you to access help. The first option is to access our private Facebook group, found on the left-hand side of the Support page. If it's your first visit, click Register to ask to be invited into the group by our Facebook administrator. Once you're in, use the group to ask questions of other exSTEMsions users, just like yourself. Feel free to talk about questions you have, share solution strategies, or even just "think out loud" about how you're approaching a problem. In this group, you'll get to meet other users from all over, and make connections with other people who share your curiosity!  

On the right-hand side of the Support page, you'll find access to our one-on-one support. This tool can be accessed by all of our Level 3 subscribers, who have chosen to subscribe to an additional layer of help. Through one-on-one support, our team of experts will do our very best to answer all of the (math-related!) questions you or a learner might have. Have a question about how to solve a problem? Stuck somewhere, and you're not sure what to do next? Message us, and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours!

Please remember that we know sometimes the help you need goes beyond, or is separate from, the work you are doing on a Problem. If you have other kinds of issues, related to things like billing, or our Tools, you can click here: What if I have a non-Problem related question?. Also, always know that we're available to help with any technical/billing issues you may have. No matter what kind of help you're seeking, please always feel free to contact us at support@exstemsions.com.  

Ready for help? Click here to head to our Support section. 

Ready to go back to solving? Click here to head to your Archive.

What if I have a non-Problem related question?

We all have questions! Maybe you have a question about how something in exSTEMsions works. Maybe you have a technical issue. Maybe you have a question about how we create our problems, or you want to share feedback about our site. We want to hear from you in all of these cases (and in all of the other ones we didn't mention) so we've built lots of different avenues to help into our site. Here, we want to make sure you can find them all, especially when you need them!

For math questions or support with problems: Visit the 'Support' icon on your main navigation bar (the fourth icon from the right). Here you'll be able to access our private Facebook discussion group, or, if you are a Level 3 subscriber, contact our team for direct, one-on-one support. 

For technical support: Use the 'Contact Support' link on the top right of this User Guide page. How do you get to the User Guide page? From any page, click the green question mark inside of the white bubble at the bottom left of your screen. 

For billing/access support:  Use the 'Contact Support' link from the User Guide.

For all other inquiries: Have feedback or an idea to share, or a general question? That's okay too - we'd love to hear what you think. Use any of the ways to contact us listed above, or know that you can always contact us directly, using support@exstemsions.com.

We're here for you! Let us know how we can help!

Ready to get back to solving? Click here to head back to your Archive.

Technical requirements

We want all of our users to have the best possible experience while using our site. In order to ensure this best experience, we test all of our tools in a range of browsers, and on as many devices as possible. We cannot, however, cover every possibility, and sometimes older browser versions are too out of date for us to support. In the list below, please find our minimum browser requirements. To ensure your experience is the best one possible on our site, please ensure that the browser you are using meets or exceeds the version listed.

Browser and oldest version supported:

- Chrome 55

- Firefox 50

- Opera 45

- Edge 14

- Safari 9.2

Unsupported browsers:

- Internet Explorer (all)

- Native Android browsers 

If you are experiencing any technical difficulty, regardless of your browser or device, we’re here to help! Please contact us at support@exstemsions.com.

Ready to get started? Click here to head to your Dashboard.