My thanks to Arvind, his minions, and the SLA gang for the quality video work. I was half this coherent before they re-edited my talk in post-production.

I don’t think i’ll look at another problem the same ever again.

Thanks, first thing i’m going to do anymore when looking at a question will be to read what the end result should be and work through in the format you outlined.

Martin: You say that textbooks are no good. What then are some of your favorite textbooks for lets say algebra, geometry or calculus?

First, I don’t say they’re no good. Textbooks hold some extremely interesting applications of math reasoning. I’m trying to demonstrate how textbooks ruin what’s good about those problems by forming the entire problem without the student’s input.

Second, I enjoy Key Press’ Discovering Geometry and everything I’ve seen from Head First, for all the reasons you’d expect from that TEDx talk.

Great discussion! You do realize that you need to write a math textbook now, don’t you? What are your thoughts on replacing calculus in high school with a class on statistics?

Alex: Great discussion! You do realize that you need to write a math textbook now, don’t you? What are your thoughts on replacing calculus in high school with a class on statistics?

I’m keen. In general, I think the second year of Algebra needs to be removed as a gatekeeper for higher education. The path should fork there. Students interested in a STEM major should follow Algebra II to Calculus. Others should learn statistics, data analysis, math problem solving — the sort of stuff with which everyone should be passingly familiar.

If you’re interested, I attended a conference session not long ago where the speaker outlined his school’s dual-track process.

Do you have any advice for teachers whose districts have pacing guides and curricula that must be followed and where “the test” of the state must be covered? It seems like it would be difficult to take the time to do it right in those cases.

I just wanted to tell you that your presentation was fascinating. When I was in college (at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) this is how we worked a lot of the problems in our higher level math classes (Differential Equations and the like). I hadn’t hit it until that point, and I never really knew why.

It is great to see someone who cares about education enough to be trying something new. I wish you the best and I know your students must love you.

Just saw your speech on reddit and really thought it was great, exactly what we need right now is a way to demystify math. Less procedure, more explanation of phenomena.

This goes all the way up to the top as I am sure you are aware through real analysis with students not really understanding what they are doing when transforming variables.

Love your opener. Last year I subbed for a week in a high school English class. Everyday we read and analyzed short stories by Poe. The kids were so into it – they loved it! At lunch I heard these same students complaining about how much they hated PreCalculus. It was so different walking into an English class everyday where the students didn’t automatically “hate it” and assume they were “no good” at it. I realized then how behind the eight ball math teachers BEGIN with students. I was so glad I had the opportunity to feel this experience. It makes me want to instill a love for math (or at least a tolerance) in every class I teach. I have to find the interesting things about math and make the students see that too.

Great presentation, I was captivated by your words and what especially resonated with me was “be less helpful.”

I teach 10th grade chemistry, and I’ve noticed the importance of this during labs. In many of my larger classes, my students tend to be more self-sufficient. (More willing to work through a difficulty or question while I’m assisting another group, or willing to ask a classmate instead of me)

In my smaller classes however, I struggle to be less helpful because, clearly, the ratio is smaller and I’m simply “more available” to the students.

Do you have suggestions or examples on how to be less helpful? Is being less helpful demonstrated in your responses to students (for example, not answering their questions directly or responding to their questions with a question posed to them) or, is this demonstrated in being less available (for example, encouraging students to ask a classmate instead).

I’m trying to think through how to be less helpful in my own classes. Which seems odd, but actually in being less helpful, I am being more helpful in moving students towards being independent problem solvers. (Is that coherent?)

Thanks Dan, as always, I appreciate your insights.

Wonderful talk. I keep writing out wordy replies and deciding it’s too much. Is there a place/way/something for likeminded teachers and parents to collaborate? I’m developing my own elementary curriculum covering every subject in this way, and your philosophy fits perfectly. We are covering science, history, literature, art, philosophy, math — the full scope of human inquiry from the big bang to present day. It’s amazing fun.

Allison, I’m miles away from teaching anything as complex as what you’re doing but I know it’s so hard to get out of their way. I wonder: can/could your students design their own experiments? Decide in groups what to use, how to do it, then present their findings to the class and challenge eachother’s results? It would be interesting too if you never told them what the official right answer is… just led them with questions and taught them how to research to find out.

Terrific talk. I’m a teacher in training at the moment and i have always struggled with being able to teach maths in a way that is interesting, meaningful and also covers the curriculum in a timely manner. I think that your comment “The maths serves the conversation, not the other way around” is bang on, and will definitely be using this approach for my lower grade 9’s

Allison, the application of this methodology to science is a little hazy to me. If you’ve been reading me at all over the last few months, though, you’ll know how enthusiastic I am about the work of Shawn Cornally who discusses his approach to inquiry in the science classroom. Highest recommendation.

Tiffany, have you seen BetterLesson? As a system for collaborating on and sharing curriculum, there isn’t anything better on the Internet.

Dan you might be interested in the Montessori method of teaching. If you are not familiar with it I suggest you do some research. One of the main goals is to have the pupil self start and work in a revelatory teaching environment rather than a rote style.

As a product of this style of learning/teaching math, I can agree that it isn’t useful in most situations, yet it is still perpetuated even at the university level. Overall, this was a really great and thought-provoking talk, Dan.

Just the other day I was talking to my math teacher about wanting to UNDERSTAND math instead of just DOING it. I had trouble articulating how frustrated I was and why I felt that way.

I dont blame my teacher for my frustration. He is an amazing math teacher. I used to be one of those students that came into class groaning about being horrible at math and whining that we would never use anything we learned. He changed my attitude completely. The only problem he has to struggle with is the fact that we are so very limited on class time. Only two and a half hours a week.

I know that this is the direction math instruction needs to trek down. But if the college wont allow for it time-wise… what can be done?

I emailed him links to the video and this blog. I hope he can somehow use this concept to change the minds of the puppet masters at our college.

Anyway, I loved this video. My whole point was I passed it along to some one that might be able to put it to good use.

And thank you for helping me understand why I dont understand math.

I’m an elementary school science teacher (I teach kindergarten to fourth grade, seeing kids once or twice a week, similar to the art or music teachers) and I found your talk to be real food for thought. Like Allison above, I also found the words “be less helpful” echoing in my brain. I know I’m going to spend the rest of the week trying to figure out some ways to do that in ways that apply to science and apply to much younger kids. (To compound things, I teach all girls – and in my experience girls are even more likely than boys to turn to the teacher for help when they’re not absolutely 100% sure what to do next.)

This is the first time I’ve come across your blog, too, and I’ll be reading your archives…

Thanks for the ideas and, most of all, the questions you’ve put in my head!

Dan, this video is one of the most inspiring things I’ve watched in a long time. I am a Media Studies major/Math minor in Maryland and I tutor other students in Pre-Calculus and Calculus. With a lot of the students I help, the problem is never that they are “bad at math” or “stupid” (Like they always tell me) but it’s just that they don’t know how to deconstruct and tackle a problem. I even find myself having these problems at times.

A lot of today’s youth just see math as numbers, formulas and something they will never use. They can’t see the problem solving skills that it teaches. I feel like I have to constantly defend my love/interest in math because so many people fail to see it’s value to everyone.

I just want to let you know that I am ecstatic that you not only recognize this problem but want to do something about it. You have another reader and I would be proud to have someone like you to teach my future kids.

I agree with just about everything you’ve said here, and with many other posts on your blog, but I have two problems:
1) I am not imaginative. Every class I’ve taken, every book I use, every thing I’ve done regarding math ed has been in the format of memorizing algorithms and answering unrealistic questions. I have gained some ideas from different blogs, but I don’t feel I have enough to make real changes to the way I teach.
2) I don’t have time. How do you provide students time to generate their own questions and solve them when you have to cram a ton of specific material into a short time frame? The kids are not “required” to have any real depth of knowledge about the material, and their questions may not get to the specific course objectives, so you end up having to go back and start over with even less time available. Also, how do you find the time to create interesting problem scenarios (with multimedia no less) when you have 3 different preps and perform multiple collateral duties (as many teachers do)?

To be quite honest, I hate the way in which I teach mathematics, but I feel hamstrung by the system to continue in the way I’ve always done it. Any suggestions to get around the excuses that I keep feeding myself?

I LOVED the talk. Look at the history of Math teaching. Books have gotten much, much larger, and teach less and less. I have a book from 1953 that that exactly one factoring problem. It then jumps into completing the squares and the Quadratic formula.

Compare this to today, were one whole chapter is devoted to factoring, then several more chapters with (rational expressions, e.g.) that can only be solved by this factoring they do. For me, Factoring is about a useful as Sudoku- no relevance to real life, and problems need to be engineered to be factorable.

I could go on and on and on, but I am disgusted with all the current math books I’ve seen.

How about posting videos with short math questions on youtube? If there are just one 100 teachers participating with one question-video each, that would already be a great start. Or better even: 100 classes creating their short-question-math video. Maybe a commen key-word to enable quick search (DIY-Math)?

Students need to learn how to ask the right questions, not necessarily know all the “right” answers. Your talk is provocative and timely.

But students need to know the ‘syntax’ of a subject in order to ask the right questions. Online studying of syntax of a topic using, for example, flash cards and e-studyguides can be accompanied by single-sign on.

Here there are e-studyguides and online flashcards for high school students to study biology, physics, chemistry and history, as well as other subjects.

You talk about the availability and usefulness of mobile devices to create rich problem presentation. Assuming that access is not an issue, have you thought at all about how a computer might be used as a tool in this process? Could it enhance the teacher/student student/student in a positive way either within, or better yet outside the classroom?

Well I took a bit more time to look around your Blog and I’d like to clarify my question.

Making lessons into sitcom’s accessible on a computer is not what I’m talking about. I’m more interested in using the computer and software as a tool after the lesson, to keep the conversation/experience going and make it easier for students to ask more questions and for the teacher to be able to give those answers.

For example: What if a student could look at a picture of a problem covered that day in class and annotate it: add a voice comment, draw on it with their finger to point to something that’s confusing them, etc, and then that can get back to the teacher for a response or follow up the next day.

Perhaps this would be better for adults than kids?

Dan, regarding your suggestion that the math education track should fork (see comment 9), I’m right there with you.

As a college prof, I feel that it’s a mistake to require all college students to take Calculus 1. For some students (e.g., those heading STEM paths, or Economics), calculus is important. But for many students, calculus is not a good use of their time. A better choice would be numeracy: things like statistics, data analysis, correlation vs causation, why we do double-blind experiments, how to lie with statistics and how to recognize when you’re being lied to, order-of-magnitude estimation, and so on. That’s the kind of math that seems more likely to be useful throughout their life — and which is easier to motivate (no surprise that those two are highly correlated).

I say this, despite the fact that I was a math major, I love math, I use math all the time — but I regret what we choose to teach to our students.

I apologize for this – this is going to be more disjointed than I’d like, but here we go.

Dan – Thank you very much for this talk – that’s really all I can say. Chris Lehmann, one of your co-presenters at TEDxNYED and a former colleague of mine, pointed me to this. It’s fabulous.

Kendall (comment #29) – I agree with your last paragraph completely. I am in my eleventh year of teaching math at a really good high school, and I feel your pain. I am also trying to figure out how to reconcile what I love about mathematics and what I know about it with the drudgery that I find myself often putting my kids through. I think eventually, for all of us, it is going to require a serious re-think of what we expect our kids to know mathematically – and the Algebra 1/Geom/Algebra 2/Pre-calc/Calc sequence is not appropriate for it. The ideas are out there in the ether- lots of people are thinking about this issue – so, perhaps the way out of our existential ennui is to start trying to figure out the alternatives and how to put them into the context of the courses we are actually teaching.

EngineeringProf (comment #36) – I agree with your points about students in high school and in college. My Ph.D. is in physics, and so in spite of the fact that I love math and everything about it, I agree that what we teach our kids is regrettable at best. Many, many are the days where I ask myself why I am trying to teach 16-year-olds to factor (for example). Why is our goal to get students “ready for calculus” when they don’t have the basic numeracy skills necessary to be good citizens, thoughtful consumers, critically able to judge statistical claims, and so on? Where is that?

I loved your talk. I like the fact that you took problems from a current textbook and broke it down in another way.

Many have already commented on the fact of time being a big issue, but also many of the external exams (even IB) break down the problems into steps for students so it is what they become used to.

One of the very best books on Algebra is I.M. Gelfand’s “Algebra”, published by Birkhauser. One of reviews — “there should be some urgency in making this book compulsory reading for anyone interested in learning mathematics” — does not exaggerate.

Also take a look at Serge Lang’s lectures, published by Springer Verlag, “The Beauty of Doing Mathematics: Three Public Dialogues” and “Math: Encounters with High School Students”.

Teaching in general. We seem to agree that what’s boring to us is boring to the students.

Send your students to Sylvia Nassar’s excellent article “Manifold Destiny”, published in the New Yorker. Whatever’s on TV can’t compare to some of the drama — yes, drama — in research mathematics today. Grigori Perleman proved a theorem (so what?) that’s worth $1 million (what???). He won the Fields medal (which he declined!), and he may or may not claim the money (!!!; see for example the AP release).

Be prepared to ditch your lesson plan and talk about what’s the big deal with math then?

My apologies for being absent this last week from a really compelling thread. Thanks for the kind remarks. I appreciate, also, all the recommended reading. Let me see if I can respond to a few comments.

Kendall: To be quite honest, I hate the way in which I teach mathematics, but I feel hamstrung by the system to continue in the way I’ve always done it. Any suggestions to get around the excuses that I keep feeding myself?

Kendall also mentions limitations on her time and imagination. Both are valid concerns. I’m sympathetic.

re imagination, I encourage you to get back into touch with what drew you to math in the first place, to reconnect with all the wonderful ways math makes your daily life easier or more meaningful. When you experience those moments, capture them. Take a picture. Write a note about where you were and what you were doing. Store it in a folder in your computer. By doing something with those moments, you’re ensuring you’ll experience more of them. Soon you’ll be able to explain those moments to other people. Not long after, you’ll be able to develop learning experience so that your students discover those moments for themselves.

re time limitations, I’m completely sympathetic. Some days (or even most days) you go with what your textbook gives you and preserve your sanity. I think that’s great. I have come to a place where creating this kind of curriculum is so much fun for me, I categorize it under “recreation” on the ledger sheet of my day. Some days I get an idea and do nothing more with it than tuck it into a document I keep in Google Docs and promise myself “someday ….” Start small.

Wesley: What if a student could look at a picture of a problem covered that day in class and annotate it: add a voice comment, draw on it with their finger to point to something that’s confusing them, etc, and then that can get back to the teacher for a response or follow up the next day.

Good one. I like it. I’m very comfortable hosting those conversations synchronously, in class with a group of students. I haven’t yet seen those conversations hosted online. Perhaps it’s as simple as posting the media to a blog, though, and requesting student comments about what they notice and wonder.

AnonEngineeringProf: I say this, despite the fact that I was a math major, I love math, I use math all the time — but I regret what we choose to teach to our students.

As such, I think you (and other math freaks like you) make the best advocates for a split track that angles students towards all the great stuff you mentioned in your comment.

Supporting anecdote: my paraprofessional aide hates math. She is openly dismissive of Algebra, which she is learning alongside the students in my class. It drives me nuts. But I referenced the book, “How To Lie With Statistics,” some time ago and I noticed her light up. She approached me after class and said she learned statistics from that text (several decades ago) and said it was the most fun she ever had in a math class.

So everyone seems to be agreeing to Dan Meyer. But I kinda have a different opinion slightly which I would like to share.

My viewpoints are:
It is an interesting video and I agree with the author up until the point of the question regarding the people on a ski lift and which ski lift is the steepest. There the answer does not really require any data other than the original image. If a steep ratio was required, that also can be obtained by super imposing the image on the graph sheet.

However, after that the video seemed pretty meaningless to me. For example, the question regarding filling up the hexagonal tank; showing a video and the time required in that video is totally an incorrect way to teach mathematics. Instead, the way we learnt in school i.e.
• Breaking the tank into separate sections like cuboids and prisms,
• And calculating their volume (by using formulae such as Pythagoras theorem, cuboid volume formula etc) as per the two measurements given
• Then using the rate of flow of water (that data would be required in addition), would be the overall correct technique.

Similarly, the last question also seemed equally meaningless to me. In shopping malls, there are always multiple factors that go into making a decision of which line to choose.

I figure that our existing education system in India is already quite refined. Every maths question cannot be enacted in real life to figure out the answer. For example, if the question were about two cars driving on the highway at different speeds and when would one overtake the other; for such a question, students can’t be taken on a high speed drive down a highway.

Similarly, we used to have questions like one train goes from delhi to calcutta at this speed. another train goes from calcutta to delhi at this speed. when will they cross over? the idea was to teach students the concept about speed formulae, time formulae etc. Now we can’t expect the students to do the same in real life right?

I really sympathise with all those here who feel they lack time to generate new materials from scratch. Relying on textbooks doesn’t make you a bad teacher – it’s what 90% of teachers do. But there should be a way of spreading the best ideas for using new tech in classes, and that’s why we started Teachable.net It’s a bit like Better Lesson, although we charge for downloads and pay royalties to the contributing teachers.

The problem we find is that many teachers use the new technology to copy existing textbook problems onto the whiteboard. Just presenting those ‘small cracks in the way’ slide by slide doesn’t make it a better lesson!

I’d really like to hear from more teachers who, like Dan, have actually reworked the problem from the ground up. You might even earn something from it.

ashvyn: It is an interesting video and I agree with the author up until the point of the question regarding the people on a ski lift and which ski lift is the steepest.

This is the same as: “I agree with the author up until the point he started talking.” If I had to guess, ashvyn struggled very little in mathematics and, for all I know, all math students in India are on par with honors students in the US. But the problems ashvyn recommends (“One train leaves Mumbai traveling at 110 kph at 11h00 … “) are found in so many textbooks they’re a pop culture cliché in the US. They reduce access to math. They don’t extend it.

Edward: The problem we find is that many teachers use the new technology to copy existing textbook problems onto the whiteboard. Just presenting those ’small cracks in the way’ slide by slide doesn’t make it a better lesson!

Are you saying you find this problem on your site or in modern classroom implementation of technology in general? If the former, what modifications are you pursuing (with UI, reputation systems, community development, quality assurance, etc.) to ensure that you’re selling content that makes students better problem solvers?

The biggest problem, is that there are not enough certified Math Teachers in this country. My “Master Teacher”, and I use that term lightly, pounded his hand on his desk saying “Triangles are Very Important — I could put them on the test!”

It took everything I had not to burst out laughing in front of his students. And he was Certified.

Ashvyn, it is very difficult to be in front of the class with silence going on. Sometimes it’s a game of chicken- who will give out the answer first. Boring the students to death can be a way to encourage them to find shortcuts.

Everything I learned about teaching, came from my Methods of teaching Science instructor- a man with 27 years experience. He once told me that he had 10 minutes of silence, before students noticed something, then started asking the questions. Once you have THEM asking YOU the questions, you are 90% of the way there.

It refers to an experiment, where Math was not taught until grade 6. Naturally, they were quite behind their peers- at the beginning. By Spring, they had caught up, and actually surpassed their peers, with 6 years of Math, in the area of story problems.

I shared this video with my coworkers (elementary school) and heard back from a few who loved it. One 3rd grade teacher was so inspired she stepped back to create a problem on area giving her students, basically, no information. It took them two days to work through the problem but they loved and she feels confident that they have a better understanding of area than her previous classes. Having talked to her I would say they have a better understanding than many fourth or fifth graders. It was awesome to see.

Jenny: It took them two days to work through the problem but they loved and she feels confident that they have a better understanding of area than her previous classes.

Awesome. I also feel like pointing out that if you work at conceptual understanding like this, you’re investing in a long game. You’re investing in students who will rise more quickly to challenges and draw connections more eagerly between old and new knowledge.

All of which saves time in the long run. It is difficult to see that at first, though, when you’re taking four times as long to let students discover for themselves what you could have told them in a lecture.

Great talk, Dan. Just wanted to stop by to say how pleased I was to see that you are continuing to get the recognition you deserve. Thanks for continuing to engage so many educators out there.

I’ve been away from blogging for a number of reasons, but I am in the states more often these days, so hope we end up in the same neighborhood and can have lunch one of these days. You’re not by any chance going to the NAFSA conference later this month, are you? (I’ll be their representing my university (NAIST), where I am now heading up the Center for International Relations.)

You are an inspiration. Frankly, I’m a little worried about you going off to grad school and somehow losing your reflective and responsive instructional practice edge.

I teach third grade – the grade at which the high stakes testing starts. I think this is the level where deadly teaching of math really feeds those five math learning issues you mentioned in your TED talk.

I long for my kids to fall in love with questions and questioning in math as well as other subject areas. Hopefully, you’ll be presenting at an upcoming NCTM conference and can reflect/outline your ideas with earlier grades in mind? In the meantime I’ll work to apply them as best I can. Thanks, again.

@Dan and @David: Just wanted to thank both of you for responding so positively to my post. I showed my post to my mother, and now even I agree with her viewpoint that my way of writing was quite irritable. Agreed that I was disagreeing with the overall viewpoint of this blog, but I should’ve placed my opinions by using much more milder words rather than using words like “meaningless” etc.

But inspite of me writing in such a “pokey” manner, both Dan and David, reacted to the meaning of my content and not the way it was written. So I would really like to thank them both for the same.

PS: As a result, I would also love to extend my support and give you and the other posters on this blog, an invitation to visit India sometime as a tourist to see all the sites etc. I promise to help in making your trip as good and memorable as possible.

I have to say that in this short time watching your video, I have gained a new perspective on math textbooks. I agree that math is an area that needs to be improved for the kids.

Thanks, Ashvyn. I would LOVE to visit India. I have had a couple of Indian roommates, and have learned a lot. One of them told me that in primary school, the students had to sit on concrete, and share a small blackboard with another student. No one did assignments on paper. Electricity is intermittent, and yet these student are beating U.S. students.

Math Ed (and all other subjects) needs some serious overhaul. Yet so does the American attitude toward education. In this country being an expert in a field somehow takes away from your credibility. We look up to mediocracy, and call bratty students “Smart.”

My Indian roommates just could not understand this concept.

Sorry I’m diverting from the main topic to say something to David here.

@David: The picture u’ve been given of India’s primary school is actually not so accurate. Its just like America in the sense that there are schools in rural areas and schools in urban areas. I’ve been brought in a metropolitan city (New Delhi – the capital of India) and I’ve had the benefits of proper classrooms with chairs and desks, computers, the works.

And yes there are people who live below the poverty line both in the urban and rural areas (especially the latter), where education doesn’t hold primary importance and the picture is very much like what your roomate described to you. But as you said, India is working country. We tend to work towards targets and tend to achieve them also.

As far as Indians are concerned, more than being specialists, we’re more like ppl who excel in multiple fields together. Even I’ve been through multiple career areas and worked pretty well in all of those. So thats our definition of mediocricy I guess. ;)

Dan,
I’m a history teacher but truly inspired by your work. I was wondering what your thoughts might be on doing this with historical topics? I was thinking in terms of real world problem solving. Such as a reliving of the Yalta Conference, or perhaps some other point in history.

Thanks so much for what you’ve done, I’ve caught the flame.

Any chance I can get professional development units for watching your video? (HaHa) Just a thought: maybe you ought to start thinking about mentoring others. You’re really great and you have much to contribute!!

Well, @ashvyn, this was my former roommate’s experience, from the late 70’s…. But the American attitude where expert means unqualified is uniquely American, I think.

@kevin, I would suggest less Kings and Queens, and bring up more of everyday life. I remember my speech class, I had to give a group talk about the 60’s. People slept, until I did my part on every day life. When I mentioned that no one had a video game system at home, everyone immediately woke up, and these 18 year old seemed genuinely concerned about these kids. Only 1 TV per house, and only 4 channels, if lucky! This got THEM asking the questions.

Thanks for this talk – I just saw it yesterday. My oldest daughter is in 3rd grade, recently finished division tables and the day before, she had opened her box of Thin Mints. Using your method, I asked her “How many days of thin mints do you have there?” – “I don’t know… 3 I think,” she said. I baited her, ” Well if you don’t know for sure, then you won’t know if I eat any of your thin mints, will ya?”

She really did not want to sit down and do the math and my threatening to eat her cookies just made her all the madder. But eventually I showed her using her basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, we figured out that she about about 10 days of cookies if she ate 2 per day.

Then she came at me with her division test, “Look mom I got a 98%,” and I said, “If you can’t use that information to figure out how many days worth of cookies you have, then it’s no good to ya. ”

Thanks for showing me the gap and how to bridge it at home at least, if not at school. PLEASE continue your work :-)

## 71 Comments

## Steve Phelps

April 18, 2010 - 10:12 amGreat talk, Dan! Thanks for sharing!

## Kurt

April 18, 2010 - 11:39 amYou say that textbooks are no good. What then are some of your favorite textbooks for lets say algebra, geometry or calculus?

## Martin

April 18, 2010 - 11:55 amI don’t think i’ll look at another problem the same ever again.

Thanks, first thing i’m going to do anymore when looking at a question will be to read what the end result should be and work through in the format you outlined.

## Steve Phelps

April 18, 2010 - 1:05 pmKurt, I know you didn’t ask me, but I would suggest Phillips Exeter Academy’s Math 1 for Algebra, Math 2 for Geometry, and Math 4 for Calculus.## Dan Meyer

April 18, 2010 - 1:17 pmFirst, I don’t say they’re no good. Textbooks hold some extremely interesting applications of math reasoning. I’m trying to demonstrate how textbooks ruin what’s good about those problems by forming the entire problem without the student’s input.

Second, I enjoy Key Press’ Discovering Geometry and everything I’ve seen from Head First, for all the reasons you’d expect from that TEDx talk.

## Gareth

April 18, 2010 - 2:10 pmThanks, Dan.

## Alex

April 18, 2010 - 2:41 pmDan,

Great discussion! You do realize that you need to write a math textbook now, don’t you? What are your thoughts on replacing calculus in high school with a class on statistics?

Best,

Alex

## Dan Meyer

April 18, 2010 - 3:02 pmI’m keen. In general, I think the second year of Algebra needs to be removed as a gatekeeper for higher education. The path should fork there. Students interested in a STEM major should follow Algebra II to Calculus. Others should learn statistics, data analysis, math problem solving — the sort of stuff with which everyone should be passingly familiar.

If you’re interested, I attended a conference session not long ago where the speaker outlined his school’s dual-track process.

## Ian Hickson

April 18, 2010 - 3:41 pmDo you have any advice for teachers whose districts have pacing guides and curricula that must be followed and where “the test” of the state must be covered? It seems like it would be difficult to take the time to do it right in those cases.

## Nick Ohrn

April 18, 2010 - 3:49 pmI just wanted to tell you that your presentation was fascinating. When I was in college (at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) this is how we worked a lot of the problems in our higher level math classes (Differential Equations and the like). I hadn’t hit it until that point, and I never really knew why.

It is great to see someone who cares about education enough to be trying something new. I wish you the best and I know your students must love you.

## Andrew Kemendo

April 18, 2010 - 6:32 pmJust saw your speech on reddit and really thought it was great, exactly what we need right now is a way to demystify math. Less procedure, more explanation of phenomena.

This goes all the way up to the top as I am sure you are aware through real analysis with students not really understanding what they are doing when transforming variables.

Great start and I wish you well.

## Julie Reulbach

April 18, 2010 - 7:28 pmLove your opener. Last year I subbed for a week in a high school English class. Everyday we read and analyzed short stories by Poe. The kids were so into it – they loved it! At lunch I heard these same students complaining about how much they hated PreCalculus. It was so different walking into an English class everyday where the students didn’t automatically “hate it” and assume they were “no good” at it. I realized then how behind the eight ball math teachers BEGIN with students. I was so glad I had the opportunity to feel this experience. It makes me want to instill a love for math (or at least a tolerance) in every class I teach. I have to find the interesting things about math and make the students see that too.

Great speech. Thanks for sharing. Julie

## Allison

April 18, 2010 - 9:08 pmI love your intro. Hilarious.

Great presentation, I was captivated by your words and what especially resonated with me was “be less helpful.”

I teach 10th grade chemistry, and I’ve noticed the importance of this during labs. In many of my larger classes, my students tend to be more self-sufficient. (More willing to work through a difficulty or question while I’m assisting another group, or willing to ask a classmate instead of me)

In my smaller classes however, I struggle to be less helpful because, clearly, the ratio is smaller and I’m simply “more available” to the students.

Do you have suggestions or examples on how to be less helpful? Is being less helpful demonstrated in your responses to students (for example, not answering their questions directly or responding to their questions with a question posed to them) or, is this demonstrated in being less available (for example, encouraging students to ask a classmate instead).

I’m trying to think through how to be less helpful in my own classes. Which seems odd, but actually in being less helpful, I am being more helpful in moving students towards being independent problem solvers. (Is that coherent?)

Thanks Dan, as always, I appreciate your insights.

## Tiffany Ard

April 18, 2010 - 9:48 pmWonderful talk. I keep writing out wordy replies and deciding it’s too much. Is there a place/way/something for likeminded teachers and parents to collaborate? I’m developing my own elementary curriculum covering every subject in this way, and your philosophy fits perfectly. We are covering science, history, literature, art, philosophy, math — the full scope of human inquiry from the big bang to present day. It’s amazing fun.

Allison, I’m miles away from teaching anything as complex as what you’re doing but I know it’s so hard to get out of their way. I wonder: can/could your students design their own experiments? Decide in groups what to use, how to do it, then present their findings to the class and challenge eachother’s results? It would be interesting too if you never told them what the official right answer is… just led them with questions and taught them how to research to find out.

## Charlie

April 18, 2010 - 11:11 pmDan,

Terrific talk. I’m a teacher in training at the moment and i have always struggled with being able to teach maths in a way that is interesting, meaningful and also covers the curriculum in a timely manner. I think that your comment “The maths serves the conversation, not the other way around” is bang on, and will definitely be using this approach for my lower grade 9’s

## Michael

April 19, 2010 - 1:35 amGreat talk Dan. Thanks for sharing.

## Dan Meyer

April 19, 2010 - 3:20 amAllison, the application of this methodology to science is a little hazy to me. If you’ve been reading me at all over the last few months, though, you’ll know how enthusiastic I am about the work of Shawn Cornally who discusses his approach to inquiry in the science classroom. Highest recommendation.Tiffany, have you seen BetterLesson? As a system for collaborating on and sharing curriculum, there isn’t anything better on the Internet.## Andrew Kemendo

April 19, 2010 - 1:21 pmDan you might be interested in the Montessori method of teaching. If you are not familiar with it I suggest you do some research. One of the main goals is to have the pupil self start and work in a revelatory teaching environment rather than a rote style.

## Steven Peters

April 19, 2010 - 1:57 pmDan,

I’ve been waiting so long to see this! Nice work, it’s a great talk.

Steve

## Jacqueline

April 19, 2010 - 5:42 pmAs a product of this style of learning/teaching math, I can agree that it isn’t useful in most situations, yet it is still perpetuated even at the university level. Overall, this was a really great and thought-provoking talk, Dan.

## Shauna Paukune

April 19, 2010 - 7:12 pmJust the other day I was talking to my math teacher about wanting to UNDERSTAND math instead of just DOING it. I had trouble articulating how frustrated I was and why I felt that way.

I dont blame my teacher for my frustration. He is an amazing math teacher. I used to be one of those students that came into class groaning about being horrible at math and whining that we would never use anything we learned. He changed my attitude completely. The only problem he has to struggle with is the fact that we are so very limited on class time. Only two and a half hours a week.

I know that this is the direction math instruction needs to trek down. But if the college wont allow for it time-wise… what can be done?

I emailed him links to the video and this blog. I hope he can somehow use this concept to change the minds of the puppet masters at our college.

Anyway, I loved this video. My whole point was I passed it along to some one that might be able to put it to good use.

And thank you for helping me understand why I dont understand math.

## Tom

April 19, 2010 - 8:15 pmYou made it on http://www.wimp.com on April 18th, 2010! Congrats! Passing this along to my wife and her Broken Arrow, Oklahoma Home School group.

## Elizabeth

April 19, 2010 - 8:45 pmI’m an elementary school science teacher (I teach kindergarten to fourth grade, seeing kids once or twice a week, similar to the art or music teachers) and I found your talk to be real food for thought. Like Allison above, I also found the words “be less helpful” echoing in my brain. I know I’m going to spend the rest of the week trying to figure out some ways to do that in ways that apply to science and apply to much younger kids. (To compound things, I teach all girls – and in my experience girls are even more likely than boys to turn to the teacher for help when they’re not absolutely 100% sure what to do next.)

This is the first time I’ve come across your blog, too, and I’ll be reading your archives…

Thanks for the ideas and, most of all, the questions you’ve put in my head!

## John

April 20, 2010 - 3:45 pmDan, this video is one of the most inspiring things I’ve watched in a long time. I am a Media Studies major/Math minor in Maryland and I tutor other students in Pre-Calculus and Calculus. With a lot of the students I help, the problem is never that they are “bad at math” or “stupid” (Like they always tell me) but it’s just that they don’t know how to deconstruct and tackle a problem. I even find myself having these problems at times.

A lot of today’s youth just see math as numbers, formulas and something they will never use. They can’t see the problem solving skills that it teaches. I feel like I have to constantly defend my love/interest in math because so many people fail to see it’s value to everyone.

I just want to let you know that I am ecstatic that you not only recognize this problem but want to do something about it. You have another reader and I would be proud to have someone like you to teach my future kids.

## Kendall

April 21, 2010 - 8:45 amDan,

I agree with just about everything you’ve said here, and with many other posts on your blog, but I have two problems:

1) I am not imaginative. Every class I’ve taken, every book I use, every thing I’ve done regarding math ed has been in the format of memorizing algorithms and answering unrealistic questions. I have gained some ideas from different blogs, but I don’t feel I have enough to make real changes to the way I teach.

2) I don’t have time. How do you provide students time to generate their own questions and solve them when you have to cram a ton of specific material into a short time frame? The kids are not “required” to have any real depth of knowledge about the material, and their questions may not get to the specific course objectives, so you end up having to go back and start over with even less time available. Also, how do you find the time to create interesting problem scenarios (with multimedia no less) when you have 3 different preps and perform multiple collateral duties (as many teachers do)?

To be quite honest, I hate the way in which I teach mathematics, but I feel hamstrung by the system to continue in the way I’ve always done it. Any suggestions to get around the excuses that I keep feeding myself?

## David Hampson

April 21, 2010 - 9:52 amI LOVED the talk. Look at the history of Math teaching. Books have gotten much, much larger, and teach less and less. I have a book from 1953 that that exactly one factoring problem. It then jumps into completing the squares and the Quadratic formula.

Compare this to today, were one whole chapter is devoted to factoring, then several more chapters with (rational expressions, e.g.) that can only be solved by this factoring they do. For me, Factoring is about a useful as Sudoku- no relevance to real life, and problems need to be engineered to be factorable.

I could go on and on and on, but I am disgusted with all the current math books I’ve seen.

Thanks for

## Judith Correll

April 21, 2010 - 12:11 pmHow about posting videos with short math questions on youtube? If there are just one 100 teachers participating with one question-video each, that would already be a great start. Or better even: 100 classes creating their short-question-math video. Maybe a commen key-word to enable quick search (DIY-Math)?

## Sundar Nathan

April 22, 2010 - 4:39 amStudents need to learn how to ask the right questions, not necessarily know all the “right” answers. Your talk is provocative and timely.

But students need to know the ‘syntax’ of a subject in order to ask the right questions. Online studying of syntax of a topic using, for example, flash cards and e-studyguides can be accompanied by single-sign on.

Check out http://www.crushthattest.com

for an example of cloud-based learning application.

Here there are e-studyguides and online flashcards for high school students to study biology, physics, chemistry and history, as well as other subjects.

## Wesley Monroe

April 22, 2010 - 6:16 amDan,

Fabulous talk. Your delivery is excellent.

You talk about the availability and usefulness of mobile devices to create rich problem presentation. Assuming that access is not an issue, have you thought at all about how a computer might be used as a tool in this process? Could it enhance the teacher/student student/student in a positive way either within, or better yet outside the classroom?

Thank you for what you do. I admire it greatly.

## Wesley Monroe

April 22, 2010 - 7:02 amWell I took a bit more time to look around your Blog and I’d like to clarify my question.

Making lessons into sitcom’s accessible on a computer is not what I’m talking about. I’m more interested in using the computer and software as a tool after the lesson, to keep the conversation/experience going and make it easier for students to ask more questions and for the teacher to be able to give those answers.

For example: What if a student could look at a picture of a problem covered that day in class and annotate it: add a voice comment, draw on it with their finger to point to something that’s confusing them, etc, and then that can get back to the teacher for a response or follow up the next day.

Perhaps this would be better for adults than kids?

## AnonEngineeringProf

April 22, 2010 - 2:30 pmDan, regarding your suggestion that the math education track should fork (see comment 9), I’m right there with you.

As a college prof, I feel that it’s a mistake to require all college students to take Calculus 1. For some students (e.g., those heading STEM paths, or Economics), calculus is important. But for many students, calculus is not a good use of their time. A better choice would be numeracy: things like statistics, data analysis, correlation vs causation, why we do double-blind experiments, how to lie with statistics and how to recognize when you’re being lied to, order-of-magnitude estimation, and so on. That’s the kind of math that seems more likely to be useful throughout their life — and which is easier to motivate (no surprise that those two are highly correlated).

I say this, despite the fact that I was a math major, I love math, I use math all the time — but I regret what we choose to teach to our students.

## Mike T.

April 23, 2010 - 6:05 pmI apologize for this – this is going to be more disjointed than I’d like, but here we go.

Dan –Thank you very much for this talk – that’s really all I can say. Chris Lehmann, one of your co-presenters at TEDxNYED and a former colleague of mine, pointed me to this. It’s fabulous.Kendall (comment #29) –I agree with your last paragraph completely. I am in my eleventh year of teaching math at a really good high school, and I feel your pain. I am also trying to figure out how to reconcile what I love about mathematics and what I know about it with the drudgery that I find myself often putting my kids through. I think eventually, for all of us, it is going to require a serious re-think of what we expect our kids to know mathematically – and the Algebra 1/Geom/Algebra 2/Pre-calc/Calc sequence is not appropriate for it. The ideas are out there in the ether- lots of people are thinking about this issue – so, perhaps the way out of our existential ennui is to start trying to figure out the alternatives and how to put them into the context of the courses we are actually teaching.EngineeringProf (comment #36) –I agree with your points about students in high school and in college. My Ph.D. is in physics, and so in spite of the fact that I love math and everything about it, I agree that what we teach our kids is regrettable at best. Many, many are the days where I ask myself why I am trying to teach 16-year-olds to factor (for example). Why is our goal to get students “ready for calculus” when they don’t have the basic numeracy skills necessary to be good citizens, thoughtful consumers, critically able to judge statistical claims, and so on? Where is that?## Dvora Geller

April 24, 2010 - 6:22 amI loved your talk. I like the fact that you took problems from a current textbook and broke it down in another way.

Many have already commented on the fact of time being a big issue, but also many of the external exams (even IB) break down the problems into steps for students so it is what they become used to.

Thanks for the inspiration!

## Eric

April 24, 2010 - 11:26 amA few ideas inspired by your (fantastic!) talk:

One of the very best books on Algebra is I.M. Gelfand’s “Algebra”, published by Birkhauser. One of reviews — “there should be some urgency in making this book compulsory reading for anyone interested in learning mathematics” — does not exaggerate.

Also take a look at Serge Lang’s lectures, published by Springer Verlag, “The Beauty of Doing Mathematics: Three Public Dialogues” and “Math: Encounters with High School Students”.

Teaching in general. We seem to agree that what’s boring to us is boring to the students.

Send your students to Sylvia Nassar’s excellent article “Manifold Destiny”, published in the New Yorker. Whatever’s on TV can’t compare to some of the drama — yes, drama — in research mathematics today. Grigori Perleman proved a theorem (so what?) that’s worth $1 million (what???). He won the Fields medal (which he declined!), and he may or may not claim the money (!!!; see for example the AP release).

Be prepared to ditch your lesson plan and talk about what’s the big deal with math then?

## Dan Meyer

April 25, 2010 - 3:47 pmMy apologies for being absent this last week from a really compelling thread. Thanks for the kind remarks. I appreciate, also, all the recommended reading. Let me see if I can respond to a few comments.

Kendallalso mentions limitations on her time and imagination. Both are valid concerns. I’m sympathetic.re imagination, I encourage you to get back into touch with what drew you to math in the first place, to reconnect with all the wonderful ways math makes your daily life easier or more meaningful. When you experience those moments, capture them. Take a picture. Write a note about where you were and what you were doing. Store it in a folder in your computer. By

doingsomething with those moments, you’re ensuring you’ll experience more of them. Soon you’ll be able toexplainthose moments to other people. Not long after, you’ll be able to develop learning experience so that your students discover those moments for themselves.re time limitations, I’m completely sympathetic. Some days (or even most days) you go with what your textbook gives you and preserve your sanity. I think that’s great. I have come to a place where creating this kind of curriculum is so much fun for me, I categorize it under “recreation” on the ledger sheet of my day. Some days I get an idea and do nothing more with it than tuck it into a document I keep in Google Docs and promise myself “someday ….” Start small.

Good one. I like it. I’m very comfortable hosting those conversations synchronously, in class with a group of students. I haven’t yet seen those conversations hosted online. Perhaps it’s as simple as posting the media to a blog, though, and requesting student comments about what they notice and wonder.

As such, I think you (and other math freaks like you) make the best advocates for a split track that angles students towards all the great stuff you mentioned in your comment.

Supporting anecdote: my paraprofessional aide hates math. She is openly dismissive of Algebra, which she is learning alongside the students in my class. It drives me nuts. But I referenced the book, “How To Lie With Statistics,” some time ago and I noticed her light up. She approached me after class and said she learned statistics from that text (several decades ago) and said it was the most fun she ever had in a math class.

## ashvyn

April 25, 2010 - 8:24 pmSo everyone seems to be agreeing to Dan Meyer. But I kinda have a different opinion slightly which I would like to share.

My viewpoints are:

It is an interesting video and I agree with the author up until the point of the question regarding the people on a ski lift and which ski lift is the steepest. There the answer does not really require any data other than the original image. If a steep ratio was required, that also can be obtained by super imposing the image on the graph sheet.

However, after that the video seemed pretty meaningless to me. For example, the question regarding filling up the hexagonal tank; showing a video and the time required in that video is totally an incorrect way to teach mathematics. Instead, the way we learnt in school i.e.

• Breaking the tank into separate sections like cuboids and prisms,

• And calculating their volume (by using formulae such as Pythagoras theorem, cuboid volume formula etc) as per the two measurements given

• Then using the rate of flow of water (that data would be required in addition), would be the overall correct technique.

Similarly, the last question also seemed equally meaningless to me. In shopping malls, there are always multiple factors that go into making a decision of which line to choose.

I figure that our existing education system in India is already quite refined. Every maths question cannot be enacted in real life to figure out the answer. For example, if the question were about two cars driving on the highway at different speeds and when would one overtake the other; for such a question, students can’t be taken on a high speed drive down a highway.

Similarly, we used to have questions like one train goes from delhi to calcutta at this speed. another train goes from calcutta to delhi at this speed. when will they cross over? the idea was to teach students the concept about speed formulae, time formulae etc. Now we can’t expect the students to do the same in real life right?

What do you think?

## Edward Upton

April 26, 2010 - 5:23 amThanks Dan, that is a real mind-opener.

I really sympathise with all those here who feel they lack time to generate new materials from scratch. Relying on textbooks doesn’t make you a bad teacher – it’s what 90% of teachers do. But there should be a way of spreading the best ideas for using new tech in classes, and that’s why we started Teachable.net It’s a bit like Better Lesson, although we charge for downloads and pay royalties to the contributing teachers.

The problem we find is that many teachers use the new technology to copy existing textbook problems onto the whiteboard. Just presenting those ‘small cracks in the way’ slide by slide doesn’t make it a better lesson!

I’d really like to hear from more teachers who, like Dan, have actually reworked the problem from the ground up. You might even earn something from it.

## Dan Meyer

April 26, 2010 - 7:38 amThis is the same as: “I agree with the author up until the point he started talking.” If I had to guess,

ashvynstruggled very little in mathematics and, for all I know, all math students in India are on par with honors students in the US. But the problemsashvynrecommends (“One train leaves Mumbai traveling at 110 kph at 11h00 … “) are found in so many textbooks they’re a pop culture cliché in the US. They reduce access to math. They don’t extend it.Are you saying you find this problem on your site or in modern classroom implementation of technology in general? If the former, what modifications are you pursuing (with UI, reputation systems, community development, quality assurance, etc.) to ensure that you’re selling content that makes students better problem solvers?

## Allison

April 26, 2010 - 9:30 am“Every maths question cannot be enacted in real life to figure out the answer.”

If this is the case and a question can’t be enacted in the real world, then what is the point of the math question?

## David Hampson

April 26, 2010 - 1:48 pmThe biggest problem, is that there are not enough certified Math Teachers in this country. My “Master Teacher”, and I use that term lightly, pounded his hand on his desk saying “Triangles are Very Important — I could put them on the test!”

It took everything I had not to burst out laughing in front of his students. And he was Certified.

Ashvyn, it is very difficult to be in front of the class with silence going on. Sometimes it’s a game of chicken- who will give out the answer first. Boring the students to death can be a way to encourage them to find shortcuts.

Everything I learned about teaching, came from my Methods of teaching Science instructor- a man with 27 years experience. He once told me that he had 10 minutes of silence, before students noticed something, then started asking the questions. Once you have THEM asking YOU the questions, you are 90% of the way there.

–Dave

## David Hampson

April 26, 2010 - 2:04 pmbtw, I love this report:

http://bit.ly/axshu1

It refers to an experiment, where Math was not taught until grade 6. Naturally, they were quite behind their peers- at the beginning. By Spring, they had caught up, and actually surpassed their peers, with 6 years of Math, in the area of story problems.

–Dave

## Jenny

April 26, 2010 - 5:49 pmI shared this video with my coworkers (elementary school) and heard back from a few who loved it. One 3rd grade teacher was so inspired she stepped back to create a problem on area giving her students, basically, no information. It took them two days to work through the problem but they loved and she feels confident that they have a better understanding of area than her previous classes. Having talked to her I would say they have a better understanding than many fourth or fifth graders. It was awesome to see.

## Dan Meyer

April 26, 2010 - 7:26 pmAwesome. I also feel like pointing out that if you work at conceptual understanding like this, you’re investing in a long game. You’re investing in students who will rise more quickly to challenges and draw connections more eagerly between old and new knowledge.

All of which saves time in the long run. It is difficult to see that at first, though, when you’re taking four times as long to let students discover for themselves what you could have told them in a lecture.

## Steven Nishida

May 13, 2010 - 8:02 amGreat talk, Dan. Just wanted to stop by to say how pleased I was to see that you are continuing to get the recognition you deserve. Thanks for continuing to engage so many educators out there.

I’ve been away from blogging for a number of reasons, but I am in the states more often these days, so hope we end up in the same neighborhood and can have lunch one of these days. You’re not by any chance going to the NAFSA conference later this month, are you? (I’ll be their representing my university (NAIST), where I am now heading up the Center for International Relations.)

Kudos!

## Carole Seubert

June 16, 2010 - 5:30 amYou are an inspiration. Frankly, I’m a little worried about you going off to grad school and somehow losing your reflective and responsive instructional practice edge.

I teach third grade – the grade at which the high stakes testing starts. I think this is the level where deadly teaching of math really feeds those five math learning issues you mentioned in your TED talk.

I long for my kids to fall in love with questions and questioning in math as well as other subject areas. Hopefully, you’ll be presenting at an upcoming NCTM conference and can reflect/outline your ideas with earlier grades in mind? In the meantime I’ll work to apply them as best I can. Thanks, again.

## Frank Noschese

July 21, 2010 - 7:47 amHi Dan,

I just blogged about a similar thing I do with my physics students. Have a look at the comment above. Thanks!

Frank

## Stacy

September 25, 2010 - 4:59 amThanks for the great insights! If I would have learned math in this way, I probably would have enjoyed it so much more and learned more.

## Ashvyn

September 25, 2010 - 8:41 pm@Dan and @David: Just wanted to thank both of you for responding so positively to my post. I showed my post to my mother, and now even I agree with her viewpoint that my way of writing was quite irritable. Agreed that I was disagreeing with the overall viewpoint of this blog, but I should’ve placed my opinions by using much more milder words rather than using words like “meaningless” etc.

But inspite of me writing in such a “pokey” manner, both Dan and David, reacted to the meaning of my content and not the way it was written. So I would really like to thank them both for the same.

PS: As a result, I would also love to extend my support and give you and the other posters on this blog, an invitation to visit India sometime as a tourist to see all the sites etc. I promise to help in making your trip as good and memorable as possible.

## Nicole

September 26, 2010 - 11:38 amI have to say that in this short time watching your video, I have gained a new perspective on math textbooks. I agree that math is an area that needs to be improved for the kids.

## David Hampson

September 26, 2010 - 5:44 pmThanks, Ashvyn. I would LOVE to visit India. I have had a couple of Indian roommates, and have learned a lot. One of them told me that in primary school, the students had to sit on concrete, and share a small blackboard with another student. No one did assignments on paper. Electricity is intermittent, and yet these student are beating U.S. students.

Math Ed (and all other subjects) needs some serious overhaul. Yet so does the American attitude toward education. In this country being an expert in a field somehow takes away from your credibility. We look up to mediocracy, and call bratty students “Smart.”

My Indian roommates just could not understand this concept.

–Dave

## Ashvyn

September 27, 2010 - 5:24 amSorry I’m diverting from the main topic to say something to David here.

@David: The picture u’ve been given of India’s primary school is actually not so accurate. Its just like America in the sense that there are schools in rural areas and schools in urban areas. I’ve been brought in a metropolitan city (New Delhi – the capital of India) and I’ve had the benefits of proper classrooms with chairs and desks, computers, the works.

And yes there are people who live below the poverty line both in the urban and rural areas (especially the latter), where education doesn’t hold primary importance and the picture is very much like what your roomate described to you. But as you said, India is working country. We tend to work towards targets and tend to achieve them also.

As far as Indians are concerned, more than being specialists, we’re more like ppl who excel in multiple fields together. Even I’ve been through multiple career areas and worked pretty well in all of those. So thats our definition of mediocricy I guess. ;)

Ashvyn

## Kevin Stuart

September 29, 2010 - 11:07 amDan,

I’m a history teacher but truly inspired by your work. I was wondering what your thoughts might be on doing this with historical topics? I was thinking in terms of real world problem solving. Such as a reliving of the Yalta Conference, or perhaps some other point in history.

Thanks so much for what you’ve done, I’ve caught the flame.

## Kevin Stuart

September 29, 2010 - 11:47 amHey Dan,

Any chance I can get professional development units for watching your video? (HaHa) Just a thought: maybe you ought to start thinking about mentoring others. You’re really great and you have much to contribute!!

## David Hampson

September 30, 2010 - 8:30 amWell, @ashvyn, this was my former roommate’s experience, from the late 70’s…. But the American attitude where expert means unqualified is uniquely American, I think.

@kevin, I would suggest less Kings and Queens, and bring up more of everyday life. I remember my speech class, I had to give a group talk about the 60’s. People slept, until I did my part on every day life. When I mentioned that no one had a video game system at home, everyone immediately woke up, and these 18 year old seemed genuinely concerned about these kids. Only 1 TV per house, and only 4 channels, if lucky! This got THEM asking the questions.

–Dave

## Gerard Franck

November 14, 2010 - 6:28 am“the math serves the conversation”…not the other way around. Wow!

Should be math teachers’ mantra!

## Jennifer Smith

February 29, 2012 - 6:23 amThanks for this talk – I just saw it yesterday. My oldest daughter is in 3rd grade, recently finished division tables and the day before, she had opened her box of Thin Mints. Using your method, I asked her “How many days of thin mints do you have there?” – “I don’t know… 3 I think,” she said. I baited her, ” Well if you don’t know for sure, then you won’t know if I eat any of your thin mints, will ya?”

She really did not want to sit down and do the math and my threatening to eat her cookies just made her all the madder. But eventually I showed her using her basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, we figured out that she about about 10 days of cookies if she ate 2 per day.

Then she came at me with her division test, “Look mom I got a 98%,” and I said, “If you can’t use that information to figure out how many days worth of cookies you have, then it’s no good to ya. ”

Thanks for showing me the gap and how to bridge it at home at least, if not at school. PLEASE continue your work :-)