This Week! Real Problem Solving … “this ain’t yo’ mama’s textbook problems!”
All of this week’s items feature “three act math tasks” from Dan Meyer’s collection. Try the 1st act of any problem to engage students – try 2nd and 3rd acts to go beyond engagement and into critical thinking/connections. And the “current research” section this week gives you an example of how to take your typical textbook problem and turn it into something *real* with multiple entry points for students (differentiation!) and multiple assessment possibilities (yes, assessment differentiation!). Enjoy!
Focus Area #1: Engagement
Gummy Bears Math: How many mini or regular gummy bears are equal to the super sized gummy bear? Watch the video and get your students estimating! For your shape and space explorations:
Focus Area #2: Critical Thinking
Nana’s Chocolate Milk: Nana likes her chocolate milk to consistent specifications (powdered cocoa and liquid milk ratios). You’ve messed up big time though…how can you fix it? Watch the video and get your students to delve deeper into ratios and proportions – older students should be able to move towards symbolic representation with this one (equations!).
Focus Area #3: Connections
Exam Caffeine Cram: It’s close to exam time, and some students want to pull “all nighters” as last-ditch efforts to study. If your PE teacher wants to collaborate on this one, you can use this video/task to delve further into not just the caffeine comparison in the drinks consumed, but the potential damage being done to your body with the caffeine slam. Five different caffeinated beverages in this quick video to explore – ratios, proportions, equations, health info, and more connections are possible with this one!
Focus Area #4: Professional Learning
Want more 3 act math tasks? Want to know what grade levels fit and where they lead to shape and space, patterns and algebra, essential math connections? Though Dan Meyer breaks it down according to Common Core outcomes, there are some parallels to Manitoba in his Google Doc of all 3-act math tasks (but you have to do the thinking on this one – he of course doesn’t have a convenient “Manitoba” column of outcomes). Great professional learning opportunity to push your math colleagues in your building to think about true problem solving and where it could lead would be to pick a few of these tasks and determine what grades/outcomes are covered! Check out the entire collection.
Focus Area #5: Current Research
Okay, technically this week’s highlight will not fall into academic researchers’ definition of current research – something I find disappointing. However, it fits with the 3-act math task theme and is all about what the critical thinkers and *true* problem solvers in mathematics are contemplating these days – how to turn boring, painful, textbook math problems into *true* problem solving activities. Fawn Nguyen has written a brilliant blog post on how she did just that with one particular similar triangles question. Try your own action research project similar to Fawn Nguyen’s and follow her ideas here.
Focus Area #6: Ressources en Francais
Cheapest Coin Carpet: Still a part of Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Math Tasks, this one (like almost all of his) can be shown and used in immersion classes because students merely need to see the visual and then explore the concepts en francais. This math task has students thinking about shape and space as well as cost – comparing which coin “carpets” are cheapest (covering your floor in pennies, nickels, or..?)