I finally had the opportunity to watch Dan Meyer’s NCTM 2016 talk. If you haven’t seen it, check it out below, before I share my thoughts…It was a very worthwhile 47 minutes…I personally picked it over MasterChef on a Sunday night…and I love my MasterChef.
The Desperate Answers
I love discussing this part of math education. I at one point a couple of years ago spoke to a group about how anything that has students argue and wonder would be engaging, and I then showed Dan’s TED talk – Math Class Needs a Make-Over. Everyone ooohd and aaaahd, so I was glad. Then I had a conversation that made me think that people missed the mark.
Someone said, oh I get it, but what if instead of the water tank, we made it more real? Like filling the air in your tire at the gas station? Everyone does that!
In the end, I was really glad that the question came up because I asked the group if that context makes things any more interesting, and everyone, including the person who suggested it, said no. I’m glad that Dan takes that idea to task.
The Math Dial
Love the idea – check the volume of the room…tone it down, and then turn it up. I didn’t really love the name “Math Dial” with the utmost respect to Dan. I don’t want people to think that if you turn the dial down, the room is less “Mathy”. I know this isn’t what Dan meant, I just don’t want other teacher’s we’re talking to to feel that we are watering the math down because even estimating, forming arguments, and fighting to back something up is super mathy. So I’d rename it to something like the Formula Dial, or the Algorithm Dial, or the Formal Dial…I dunno, none of these are as fun as the Math Dial, but there it is.
I do love the idea that you really need to see if your students are ready to have the dial turned up. This is true even in a calculus class. Students need to have some place to start, some place to throw their experiences in, and some place to argue, before we throw formality into the flow. Also, the fact that the dial goes in only one direction…key.
The Dial Only Goes UP! It Can’t Go Back…
Oh so true. The other lens that I look at this through is anxiety. If we jack up the dial we create anxiety, and things shut down. It’s super hard to take that anxiety away, but if we start with low floor, where everyone can enter and play, we’re good to go. We, as professionals need to be able to sense when and how quickly to notch up the structure.
Delete Your Textbook
I love this…I sense that Dan felt out the audience of the median math teacher and recognized that people aren’t super comfortable with the task of creating 3 Act Tasks. Many teachers I’ve talked to LOOOOOVE using them, but aren’t really jumping on creating their own. They do, however, value the productive struggle and the arguing that’s caused by these tasks.
This piece is a perfect solution for people who want to jump into creating some productive struggle, but not having it be an onerous task…and I love his example:
Another super simple example I go to is:
Original: The length of a rectangle is 2cm more than the width. The area is 35cm^2. What’s the perimeter?
Modified: What’s the perimeter of our rectangle?…Add information as students ask for it.
The Gist of It
Ask for student questions…
Ask for questions about questions…
Start a fight…
Love these three tips…they’ve held true for so long, and I don’t know if I would call anything else more pertinent than these three things in math class…
So once again…thanks Dan 🙂