Who Makes Me Think Part 1 – Dan Meyer

I want to share with you a few people that have made me think differently, and this is the first… Dan Meyer.  If you are an educator, or a parent, or even a student, and you haven’t seen this video, please watch it.  I’ll include some points below which I think are super important.

Textbook problems:

  • are made so that they can be solved quickly and easily according to the lesson which ensued right before trying the question.
  • usually involve only one mathematical concept covered, and its the same one that was just learned in the section.
  • provide us with specifically the information that is required, no more, no less.
  • provide us with the mathematical model that we should use.
  • leave all of the thinking out…it’s usually done for us.

Real mathematical problems:

  • leave room for error.
  • leave room for debate.
  • involve us determining what information we need and what we don’t need.
  • also involve us determining what information we can actually get in order to solve a problem (for example, in the water tank problem in the video, it would be nice to have the Area of the base of the tank, but we don’t have an Area Measuring Machine…instead we have to find the dimensions first and go from there).

Why does this work for teens?

  • Leaves an information gap (sparks curiosity).  If there is no information gap, then students feel that they’re being either not challenged, or they’re just being challenged to crunch numbers, which they don’t think is important (and I tend to agree).
  • Allows everyone to “Feel the Love”.  Dan Meyer usually asks for guesses like “What do you think is too high?” or “What do you think is too low”, along with the questions “What questions come to mind?” or “What information do you need to know here?”  These questions allow everyone to re-engage.  I think that in math, we have done so many students an injustice by telling them (directly or indirectly) that they’re good or not good at math.  Many of these students just don’t bother any more, until you do a Dan Meyer task with them.  These questions let them “Feel the Love”.  I saw Dan Meyer speak at OAME 2014 (and it was the best darned day of my career), and he must have said “Feel the Love” about a dozen times, and I think that this is why I continue to marvel at what he does.  The root and reason for everything that I do as an educator is to try to ensure that students feel safe.  I happened to pick math as my area of study, so I’ve made my job difficult, but I really do like his approach, along with some others who I’ll write about in later posts.

So, if you want to try some Dan Meyer tasks, this is his Google Sheets page that he willingly shares with everyone.  Along with Dan’s tasks, I also want to point you in the direction of a couple of other people who have started heading in the same direction, and have done some really cool stuff:  Kyle Pearce and Jonathan Orr.

Thanks for reading!