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2016 Aug 6. Here is video of this task structure implemented with elementary students.

2013 May 14. Here’s a brief series on how to teach with three-act math tasks. It includes video.

2013 Apr 12. I’ve been working this blog post into curriculum ideas for a couple years now. They’re all available here.

Storytelling gives us a framework for certain mathematical tasks that is both prescriptive enough to be useful and flexible enough to be usable. Many stories divide into three acts, each of which maps neatly onto these mathematical tasks.

Act One

Introduce the central conflict of your story/task clearly, visually, viscerally, using as few words as possible.

With Jaws your first act looks something like this:

The visual is clear. The camera is in focus. It isn’t bobbing around so much that you can’t get your bearings on the scene. There aren’t any words. And it’s visceral. It strikes you right in the terror bone.

With math, your first act looks something like this:

The visual is clear. The camera is locked to a tripod and focused. No words are necessary. I’m not saying anyone is going to shell out ten dollars on date night to do this math problem but you have a visceral reaction to the image. It strikes you right in the curiosity bone.

Leave no one out of your first act. Your first act should impose as few demands on the students as possible — either of language or of math. It should ask for little and offer a lot. This, incidentally, is as far as the #anyqs challenge takes us.

Act Two

The protagonist/student overcomes obstacles, looks for resources, and develops new tools.

Before he resolves his largest conflict, Luke Skywalker resolves a lot of smaller ones — find a pilot, find a ship, find the princess, get the Death Star plans back to the Rebellion, etc. He builds a team. He develops new skills.

So it is with your second act. What resources will your students need before they can resolve their conflict? The height of the basketball hoop? The distance to the three-point line? The diameter of a basketball?

What tools do they have already? What tools can you help them develop? They’ll need quadratics, for instance. Help them with that.

Act Three

Resolve the conflict and set up a sequel/extension.

The third act pays off on the hard work of act two and the motivation of act one. Here’s act three of Star Wars.

That’s a resolution right there. Imagine, though, that Luke fired his last shot and instead of watching the Death Star explode, we cut to a scene inside the Rebellion control room. No explosion. Just one of the commanders explaining that “the mission was a success.”

That what it’s like for students to encounter the resolution of their conflict in the back of the teacher’s edition of the textbook.

If we’ve successfully motivated our students in the first act, the payoff in the third act needs to meet their expectations. Something like this:

Now, remember Vader spinning off into the distance, hurtling off to set the stage for The Empire Strikes Back. You need to be Vader. Make sure you have extension problems (sequels, right?) ready for students as they finish.


Many math teachers take act two as their job description. Hit the board, offer students three worked examples and twenty practice problems. As the ALEKS algorithm gets better and Bill Gates throws more gold bricks at Sal Khan and more people flip their classrooms, though, it’s clear to me that the second act isn’t our job anymore. Not the biggest part of it, anyway. You are only one of many people your students can access as they look for resources and tools. Going forward, the value you bring to your math classroom increasingly will be tied up in the first and third acts of mathematical storytelling, your ability to motivate the second act and then pay off on that hard work.


  1. I gave this post a try a year ago.
  2. Also, Breedeen Murray has a lot of useful things to say about storytelling, though I can’t endorse her enthusiasm for “confusion.”

2011 Dec 26: The Three Acts of a (Lousy) Mathematical Story is also on the syllabus.

138 Responses to “The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story”

  1. on 12 May 2011 at 3:18 amJason Fountain

    I’ve been following your posts for about a year now. As a former middle school math teacher, I think you are right on with your focus on building mathematical stories.

    One of my favorite recent books is “Do the Work” by Steven Pressfield. He wrote a great little post a few weeks ago about the three act structure in anything we are doing. It’s worth a look:

    Keep pushing!

  2. on 12 May 2011 at 5:03 amMBP

    Now I’m finding myself confused. I seem to remember you saying that you tell mathematical stories daily, and WCYDWT problems less frequently. But now it seems that you’re identifying good mathematical story telling with WCYDWT problems? Which part am I getting wrong?

    I think that this framework easily applies to apply to very non-WCYDWT approaches as well. For instance, if my students know how to solve linear equations in one variable, and then I put any other equation in one variable on the board, I think everyone in the classroom is going to ask the same question: how do we find solutions for the variable? I suppose that the big difference between a question like “How do we find solutions to this equation?” and “Will the basketball go in?” is in how badly kids need the question answered. How hooky is the hook?

    At the same time, we shouldn’t underestimate the hookiness of “How do we find solutions to this equation?” In class the other day I did something stupid: I put a rational equation up on the board that turns into a kind of quadratic equation that my ninth graders don’t know how to solve. Once we had that quadratic equation on the board, though, I had to very, very slowly back away from my students. I tried to move on. “Wait, so what are the solutions?” Umm… we haven’t learned it yet. “Is the answer 8?” Well…sort of but remember how many solutions a quadratic equation has. “Oh! So it’s got 2 solutions.” I have no doubt that more of my students would have been engaged in that conversation if it was a more intuitive question (Will the ball go in?). Still, mathematical questions don’t suck.

  3. on 12 May 2011 at 7:19 amDamian Eastwood

    Reading your post on Google Reader. The previous post from a different blog was discussing a school in Denmark that is piloting open book exams where “the book” is the full range of online communication tools. It sruck me that the kind of questions being asked would need to very different from traditional “what can you remember”, closed book testing. I was wondering what such an exam paper might look like as I hit the next button to read this post. I think this kind of thinking, and format could be the answer to my question and could be adapted to provides some interesting assessment work.

  4. on 12 May 2011 at 7:39 amMichael

    Dan said: “I’m not saying anyone is going to shell out ten dollars on date night to do this math problem”

    Wouldn’t that be something if people DID shell out ten dollars on date night to do a math problem or two; if it is a double feature!

    I think I see a new business opportunity for someone.

  5. on 12 May 2011 at 8:48 amAlex


    Do you see a world where every math teacher is capable of building a curriculum that largely consists of math storytelling/WCYDWT lessons and learning experiences?

    Or do you see a world where that curriculum is available to be accessed/purchased?

  6. on 12 May 2011 at 8:49 amDan Meyer
    MBP: Now I’m finding myself confused. I seem to remember you saying that you tell mathematical stories daily, and WCYDWT problems less frequently. But now it seems that you’re identifying good mathematical story telling with WCYDWT problems? Which part am I getting wrong?

    The difference between the mathematical stories we tell daily and #wcydwt is the visual nature of #wcydwt and the different techniques for resolving the first act conflict in the third act. (It’s hard to show the answer to a trinomial factoring problem. It’s different, anyway.) Otherwise, they’re largely the same.

  7. on 12 May 2011 at 9:12 amBreedeen

    Geez. Called out again by Meyer.

    I want to make it clear (and plan to in an upcoming post) that I am not enthusiastic about confusion for confusion’s sake. I value confusion as a part of the learning process. My take on “confusion” aligns rather well with what you’re saying about Act 1 & Act 2. I have not yet written about Act 3–the climax and dénouement.

    Unresolved confusion is not productive. Not to mention about as unsatisfying as an unresolved narrative arc [last season of Farscape, anyone?…anyone?].

  8. on 12 May 2011 at 9:12 ammary

    Suggested “act 3” extension for a more advanced math/physics class: add a scoreboard and a buzzer about to go off. You do need to know g=9.8 m/s^2 and have some dimension from the image in that case, but it would give you a second thing to solve for.

  9. […] May 12: I gave this post another pass a year later. The job of the dramatist is to make the audience wonder what happens next. Not to […]

  10. on 12 May 2011 at 3:04 pmDan Meyer
    Alex: Do you see a world where every math teacher is capable of building a curriculum that largely consists of math storytelling/WCYDWT lessons and learning experiences?

    Or do you see a world where that curriculum is available to be accessed/purchased?

    A mix of the two, mostly. I don’t know if it’s possible for a teacher to teacher from a framework she doesn’t understand. If your understanding of the three acts is so shaky you can’t create one of these problems, it isn’t going to be simple for you to teach someone else’s.

    That said, once two teachers share an understanding of this common framework, certainly they should pool their efforts. The same goes for thousands of math teachers on the Internet.

  11. on 12 May 2011 at 3:35 pmPaul McNally

    Hi Dan,

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been inspired…I write curriculum for my district (Cherry Hill NJ) and also create performance assessments for my classes. I created a systems performance assessment for my Algebra class a few years ago where the students perform races in groups of two or three, model there race with a distance vs. time graph and use algebra to determine how much of a head-start the slower runner would need to to tie the faster runner. Then obviously we go back outside and test our hypothesis…but the problem lied in how to get the students to figure out the head start without me showing them first (i.e. the runners’ speed “slope” doesn’t change and the slower runner must end at the same time “point” as the faster runner). That’s where you come into play. I’ve created three videos as a pre-lesson to the performance assessment where there is no sound only me running a 100 foot race and the time on the bottom of the video, my co-worker running the same race with a slower time and then finally me and my coworker finishing the race at the same time but not showing what happened in the beginning of the race. Can’t wait to try it out this year with my students in a few weeks . But I just wanted to say thank you for the inspiration…it was like a light bulb went off and mow I can see so much more potential in my lessons and my labs/performance assessments. Keep it up!!

  12. on 12 May 2011 at 7:28 pmTimon Piccini

    Thanks Dan! Once again you have made so many things so clear. I am really hoping that I will be able to incorporate this sort of story telling even a fraction as well as you have done!

    I have a question, is this worthwhile to bringing to my staff, even if they are not all math experts? They are great teachers, and would be inspired by this. As part of our technology budget we have all received iPod touches with video, and I thought of introducing them to some anyqs and WCYDWT, so that is not just a glorified google searching device.

    I am a newcomer to this whole style of math teaching, so I am curious what you would think? Get a few lessons under my belt first, or just open it up to everyone, and learn from each other?

  13. on 13 May 2011 at 2:48 amOwen

    I have learnt a few things about story telling through images and presentations from Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen

    And thanks to the ideas on this blog, I have started thinking “Is that something mathematical I can take a photo or video of?”

  14. on 13 May 2011 at 11:50 amTom

    Good stuff Dan! I’ve fairly new to teaching and to your blog (found it after seeing your TED video) and I’m hooked. I used storytelling a bit in one of my Algebra classes a couple years ago after talking with an English teacher about how they got students talking about the content, instead of just staring blankly at him. His response was the fact that he got to talk about characters, plot, etc. This got me thinking about storytelling in math.

    I didn’t quite do it as you did with the three acts, but used it as an introduction to direct variation and to help the students get the “big ideas” with the concepts. I used the clips from the Matrix and related Neo to the independent variable and Agent Smith with the dependent variable. The dependent variable “reacted” to the independent variable, just as Agent Smith would follow/track Neo. As a follow-up at the end of the unit I gave an assignment where the students could use their own movie analysis relating the characters to content or create their own story.

    Again, not quite the same as you’ve been talking about, but the students enjoyed it and if you are looking at the different types of learners, this helps some who aren’t as strong with their computations demonstrate their understanding of the content in another way.

  15. on 13 May 2011 at 12:09 pmPwolf

    Paul McNally brought up something that I’ve been thinking about for about a week or so. It may be more useful to e-mail the guy who made it, but does anyone have a copy of “Do You Know How Slow You Run?” I saw it when Dan used it in a presentation I was watching last week, and when I went to find it on Youtube, it had been taken down.

    For those of you who haven’t seen it, a guy in a suit runs the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine in what appears to be a pretty respectable time for a guy in a suit. Then they show the video again, this time spliced in with a real football player, who blows past the guy in the suit. Then they show another clip and they give the guy in a suit a head start, and he still loses by a lot.

    I haven’t been able to see the whole thing, so I don’t know if there is a “blow up the Death Star” moment where the guy gets the head start he needs, but man would that be a killer first-day-of-the-year lesson. If I can’t find it, I’ll have to make my own, maybe stealing the tricycle idea (I don’t remember who made that one). But I really want the original.

  16. on 13 May 2011 at 12:55 pmKarim

    @Pwolf: Here’s the link you’re looking for…

    This is a really wonderful description of a good lesson flow, and one of the most well thought out and articulated I’ve read. It makes sense given Dan’s background in film (although, the next time around, he might consider using Major League, which everyone agrees is a cinematic masterpiece).

    Clearly storytelling makes the learning process more engaging and authentic, especially when combined with multimedia. My only concern is that people interpret this to mean that it’s the best or indeed only way of teaching, something to which everything else is therefore inferior. I don’t think that Dan is setting WCYDWT-style prompts up as the be-all-end-all, and in fact he’s done a great job of noting its limits and boundaries. Having read the comments, though, I sense that some are eager to develop an entire curriculum around this, which 1) may be infeasible, and 2) may diminish the authenticity which this approach depends on.

    In terms of the first, not all topics lend themselves to multimedia, and restricting a curriculum to .jpg and .mov unnecessarily filters down the field. Similarly, storytelling itself is limited to situations where…there’s a story: a conflict, a resolution. But say you’re a 6th grade teacher and have to teach PEMDAS, and were thinking of doing a lesson on body-mass index or target heart rates. These aren’t stories, but they’re still very mathematically rich. Also, students walk out of class knowing something about health & wellness, which is valuable in and of itself.

    At the same time, we do have to consider how easy this type of lesson is to teach, particularly for a new and inexperienced teacher. Act Two isn’t just an act, but rather a collection of mini-acts, and helping students navigate through quadratics–and ensuring that they cover the standards they need to cover, in the time they need to cover them–can be challenging. Which is to say: the virtue of the storytelling approach is that it’s open-ended. There are huge upsides to this, but potential shortcomings as well.

    This isn’t an argument against conflict/plot/resolution types of lessons. Far from it. It’s simply a caution against the illusion of mutual exclusion, and the desire to put everything into the same neat category. Still, for this category, this is easily one of the best descriptions I’ve seen. Awesome.

  17. […] see how well the storytelling framework holds […]

  18. on 13 May 2011 at 2:44 pmDan Meyer

    @Pwolf, if you’d like a hard copy of Karim’s link, you can grab that here:

    @Karim, thanks for weighing in on this one.

    Karim: My only concern is that people interpret this to mean that it’s the best or indeed only way of teaching, something to which everything else is therefore inferior.

    Concern trolling? Certainly, I did my best to disclaim at the top of the page that this is a framework only for “certain mathematical tasks.” And so help me if I can’t find a single commenter suggesting what you suggest they’re suggesting. Where are you taking exception, exactly?

    Karim: In terms of the first, not all topics lend themselves to multimedia, and restricting a curriculum to .jpg and .mov unnecessarily filters down the field. Similarly, storytelling itself is limited to situations where…there’s a story: a conflict, a resolution. But say you’re a 6th grade teacher and have to teach PEMDAS, and were thinking of doing a lesson on body-mass index or target heart rates.

    Agreed to the first that not every good mathematical task comes packaged with a .jpg or a .mov. I disagree, however, that conflict is optional. Learning arises naturally from the resolution of conflict and it’s incumbent on professional math educators to locate the conflict in topics like PEMDAS. PEMDAS, for the record, isn’t even hiding its conflict all that well. Namely, if we don’t have some convention for the order of operations, we will all get different answers for the same expression. That isn’t a great white shark circling a swimmer, but it is a conflict.

    (Another example of conflict where you least expect it: naming points in the Cartesian plane.)

    Karim: At the same time, we do have to consider how easy this type of lesson is to teach, particularly for a new and inexperienced teacher. Act Two isn’t just an act, but rather a collection of mini-acts …

    Act one is the easiest, particularly when you’re able to download it from someone else. Act three next. (Revealing the answer is easy. The summary discussion of methods is not.) I’m not sure what “mini-act” means, but act two is far and away the hardest of the three.

    A master practitioner, in act two, will quickly pre-assess her students’ existing toolset and ask questions that lead to the development of new tools strong enough to resolve the act one conflict. That’s tough.

    A novice practitioner, in act two, will lecture. She’ll give her students the tools necessary to resolve the conflict, without respect to their existing toolset. That isn’t great teaching, but there is room within this framework to grow from novice to master.

    Certainly, it’s an ongoing challenge to make this framework accessible to as many teachers as possible without making it meaningless. (In that sense, The rule of least power has been the white whale of my career.) Even if I didn’t have evidence of new teachers applying this framework in their classes, I’d still wonder what’s wrong with a framework that only intermediate and advanced teachers can apply? New teachers are only new for so long.

  19. on 13 May 2011 at 5:34 pmKarim

    Concern trolling, or trolling for concern trolling? :)

    I’m not knocking WCYDWT, as I think my initial comment made clear. When I write that my “concern is that people interpret this to mean…”, there’s an implicit [would] in there. I’m not saying that people necessarily “do” create a mutual exclusion in their minds, but simply that they “might.”

    (That said, Alex in comment 5 asks, “Do you see a world where every math teacher is capable of building a curriculum that largely consists of math storytelling/WCYDWT lessons?” I don’t know whether this was a question or a solicitation, but I can certainly see people–indeed have met people–who are looking for a simple answer to a difficult question, namely how do we engage students in math?, find your blog and become convinced that WCYDWT is this answer. Again, I know that you’re not advocating it as such, but that doesn’t mean that people won’t in their enthusiasm interpret it that way).

    In terms of the role of conflict, we may just fundamentally disagree. I think it’s important and can lead to great learning, but I’m not ready to say that learning without conflict therefore isn’t. I learned about the Declaration of Independence and the Freedom Riders, quadratics and the birth of Impressionism. None of those involved conflict…unless we define “conflict” so broadly that it ceases to mean anything.

    WCYDWT uses the world as a prism to explore math: the world serving the math. I don’t imagine you really care about water tanks or Russian dolls, but that you value them insofar as they provide an “in” to mathematics. At their heart, WCYDWT-style lessons seem to me like wonderful puzzles. Puzzles are great. Sudoku is great.

    And so is the rest of the newspaper. Which is to say, there’s another side to math, and one that doesn’t always involve an initial conflict: math serving the world. Using PEMDAS to examine target heart rates, or expected value to understand both sides of the healthcare debate. I imagine that Galileo was fascinated by telescopes for telescopes’ sake, but more so that he could see the stars.

    World to math. Math to world. We need both, and that’s the point…and one that I’d be sad to see lost in our enthusiasm to codify a new template.

    In terms of my “we do have to consider how easy this type of lesson is to teach, particularly for a new and inexperienced teacher” comment, it wasn’t a critique of WCYDWT but simply a recognition of the challenges a first year teacher may encounter in trying to teach it, and the need to make it as easy as possible for him/her to incorporate. As I’ve said before, WCYDWT is great stuff. These prompts are wonderful, and it would be a shame if people didn’t use them because they didn’t know how. So let me ask you: do you actually disagree with what I wrote?

  20. on 13 May 2011 at 6:17 pmKarim

    By the way, the Photoshopped answer key (“the ball goes in”)? Genius.

  21. on 14 May 2011 at 1:42 amChristopher Danielson

    Um Karim? No conflict in the Declaration of Independence? No conflict in the Freedom Riders? Please revise examples and resubmit.

  22. on 14 May 2011 at 3:06 amKarim

    @Chris, you know what I meant. Of course there were conflicts for them, but were you on the edge of your seat in seventh grade wondering, “How are we going to extricate ourselves from the King?!” Press play. “Phew!”

    My point is that not every learning experience requires this kind of “oooh I wonder how this is going to turn out” internalization. Are these valuable prompts? No doubt, where they exist. But take the combinatorics lesson on your Sophia site: “How many possible color combinations are there on Nike iD?” There’s a narrative, yes, but no deep conflict*. It’s still a valuable learning exercise, though.

    (*Unless we define “conflict” to simply mean “question.” If that’s the case, then yes, I imagine most people would agree that learning first requires a question. But a net that catches everything catches nothing, and I don’t think this broad brush is what Dan intended (unless I misinterpreted)).

    Indeed, maybe I did misunderstand. Like @MBP, I understood that WCYDWT-style lessons happened every so often, but weren’t meant to replace the entire curriculum. Some of Dan’s comments seem to reaffirm this. But with the whole “learning requires conflict, where conflict means [Act One],” I’m no longer so sure. @Dan can you clarify, or perhaps expand on your response in comment #5?

  23. on 14 May 2011 at 3:09 amKarim

    (comment #6, I mean)

  24. on 14 May 2011 at 10:41 amDan Meyer
    Karim: @Chris, you know what I meant. Of course there were conflicts for them, but were you on the edge of your seat in seventh grade wondering, “How are we going to extricate ourselves from the King?!” Press play. “Phew!”

    It’s a rather large problem how little our classrooms involve intellectual conflict, how comfortable teachers are to walk to the front of the class, announce the day’s topic, and describe it fully, all without positioning it as the resolution to some previous conflict or the antecedent to some future conflict.

    I’m not saying learning arises exclusively from conflict. But we developed new mathematical tools to resolve the limitations of the old ones. That’s a conflict. And there are methods for making that conflict deeply felt to our students.

    “Press play” and all that? Just details. The conventions of narrative run beneath everything. Draw it on a cave wall or shoot it with a Flip — doesn’t matter to me. I don’t know anything about teaching history, for instance, but I feel confident saying that if you can’t evoke the conflict of the Revolution in a way that is real to your students, in a way that you can leverage into learning, you’re probably in the wrong business.

  25. on 14 May 2011 at 12:14 pmKarim

    Well put. Invariably there’s a spectrum of conflict–from the immediate & visceral to the more subtle–and your first paragraph pretty much nails what it doesn’t look like.

    By the way, if I were still teaching I’d use WCYDWT as often as possible, and at a minimum every other Friday. I love it.

  26. on 15 May 2011 at 12:54 pmMBP

    Storytelling is also undervalued at higher levels of instruction as well. Low-level, lesson-level storytelling helps with learning individual topics. But what connects these individual topics? What *are* we learning, anyway, Mr. MBP? What do mathematicians do all day?

    We need the higher levels of instruction–units, semesters, and subjects–to include story arcs as well. Each moment in the classroom should feel inevitable, and a necessary step in the larger story. Stories do that.

  27. on 15 May 2011 at 6:29 pmChristopher Danielson


    But take the combinatorics lesson on your Sophia site: “How many possible color combinations are there on Nike iD?” There’s a narrative, yes, but no deep conflict*. It’s still a valuable learning exercise, though.

    Point well taken. I agree wholeheartedly that question≠conflict. But wouldn’t it be a better learning experience if there were conflict?

    W/r/t Sophia, you point to something I’ve been struggling with. My Nike combinatorics packet is, of course, ripped off straight from you, Karim (with credit given in the first paragraph). I wrote it quickly and to supplement some class work in my College Algebra class. I use it to tell. If you don’t care already about combinatorics, nothing about that packet is going to make you care.

    While Sophia incorporates multimedia, it does so linearly. In that sense, it’s very much like a textbook. Reference Bowen’s question about textbooks here. I’m still playing around with how to incorporate compelling narrative into this new medium. One way is to write in a way that brings students’ half-formed ideas and misconceptions to the forefront, as in my packets on circles and on exterior angles of concave polygons. The conflict arises when these half-formed ideas are pushed to their limits. “You think of a circle as something round, but that’s not good enough. Here’s why.” and “Remember when we said that the sum of measures of the exterior angles of a polygon is 360 degrees because if you were walking around the polygon, you end up facing the way you started? That doesn’t seem to work for a concave polygon, does it?”

    Conflict-free teaching ignores the ideas that students bring with them to class. “A circle is the set of all points a common distance from a single points, which is called the center.” and “The sum of the exterior angles of any polygon is 360 degrees, counting left-hand turns as positive and right-hand ones as negative.” It tells without concern to what’s really being heard. We’ve all done it and it creates conflict that teachers are unable to observe, never mind resolve.

    Better teaching begins with the ideas students bring with them and uses them to create visible conflict that needs resolution (cognitive dissonance is another trendy term for a related idea).

  28. on 15 May 2011 at 11:23 pmGary Harper

    Hi Dan

    I am a High School Maths teacher in Scotland and have been reading your posts for about 2 months now. I have been trying to tweak my lessons to try some of the stuff you have posted. What editing software did you use for the video of your basketball shot? I am trying a similar thing but can’t find some decent software.

  29. on 16 May 2011 at 5:08 amChristopher Danielson

    Answers here:
    Both were really helpful in my learning.

  30. on 16 May 2011 at 6:00 amDan Meyer

    My work here is done.

  31. on 16 May 2011 at 11:18 pmGary Harper

    Thanks very much. Now to get my head round it all!!!

  32. […] Candle Burn #WCYDWT Posted on May 23, 2011 by Dan The structure of this post comes from Dan Meyer’s Three Acts of A Mathematical Story. […]

  33. […] much direction. But at the same time I felt I needed to guarantee that we would reach resolution. (Storytelling […]

  34. […] because they make implementation easy. I know what happens in the first, second, and third acts of a mathematical story, so it'd be a simple matter to use Dan Anderson's lesson in the classroom — no lesson plan or […]

  35. […] from dan meyer’s blog post… […]

  36. […] Well, then you give ‘em whatever information they need to solve the problem. And you let them work, or maybe some days you lecture. But the point is, they’re motivated […]

  37. […] linkThe Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story […]

  38. […] Why Dan Has Told The Better Mathematical Story […]

  39. on 12 Jul 2011 at 7:11 amJamie

    I didnt realize the way you structured your math problems was in a storytelling format. I took a class on digital storytelling and everyone thought I was nuts, storytelling in math. Reading your explanations of the 3 acts and seeing examples make it much more clear. Beginning, Conflict, Closure.

  40. […] Here is my attempt at a three act math story as described by Dan Meyer here. […]

  41. […] The Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  42. on 18 Jul 2011 at 8:23 amThe 2011 CAMT Sessions | Breakout

    […] LinkMathematical Storytelling […]

  43. on 18 Jul 2011 at 8:29 amThe 2011 CAMT Sessions | Keynote

    […] LinkMathematical Storytelling […]

  44. on 18 Jul 2011 at 6:31 pmWhat This Is « Mathy McMatherson

    […] strategies), how to create dynamic, inquiry-based mathematics lessons (don’t we all? Dan Meyer is especially inspirational), and how to use technology effectively in my teaching (Jennifer […]

  45. […] LinkMathematical Storytelling […]

  46. […] LinkMathematical Storytelling […]

  47. […] I am such a big fan of his. The main point of both his talks: a good (read engaging) math problem is like a good story. A good problem grabs your interest (usually with a powerful image), equips you to solve the […]

  48. […] Dan’s ideas for flipping math on its head come from looking at good stories and distilling their essential three acts. […]

  49. […] you help me make this into a 3 Acts problem? I was thinking some thing along these […]

  50. […] do you think would be the most engaging for students? As Dan Meyer would describe it, what would be ACT 1, ACT 2 and ACT 3? Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", […]

  51. on 18 Aug 2011 at 11:55 amGoals « The Chemist's Classroom

    […] set tests. There are a number of issues at work here, and a lot of what I want to change comes from Dan Meyer’s “problem solving” ideas and development. I also have a lot of work to do in designing […]

  52. […] The structure of this post comes from Dan Meyer's Three Acts of A Mathematical Story. […]

  53. on 21 Aug 2011 at 7:34 pmChrista

    I have been teaching for exactly 6 years, I saw your video because I was forced to watch it in my grad class! Already I have sent it out to the entire math team and all of the principals! If I get one more unsatisfactory observation after they watch your video, then they need they I will ask them to teach my math class so that they can model rigor for me after they have their head examined!

    Of course, I am being sarcastic! I studied Electrical Engineering and shifted careers obviously. However, I have received about 4 unsats in my career, all due to student behaviors! I have had technology 1/6 years in my classroom, only had an honors class 1/6 years, but I am now in a Learning Technology Masters program and finally this year we will have Nspire Technology in all math classes.

    So! I said all of that to say that they better pay attention to your video! All I hear is I can’t do math, I never was good at it, but yet you have the nerve to evaluate me and expect me to control my math class with extra tough math problems, and if I just did that, my kids would be engaged!!!!! Yeah right!

    Maybe deep down inside I am hoping that they could get you to come to do a real professional development at our school because this year we are finally going to stop focusing on writing!!!!!!

    Thank you,

    Christa Togans

  54. […] For more background on the engagement in 3 acts idea, check out this post: The three acts of a mathematical story. […]

  55. […] perhaps. You can read all about Dan’s “three acts of a mathematical story” here, but act one should grab hold of the audience with something truly compelling. I’m all about […]

  56. on 30 Oct 2011 at 7:07 amThe 2011 AIMS Sessions | Breakout #1

    […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  57. […] delivers the problem to the student. New Tech calls this an “entry event”. Dan Meyer calls it “Act 1.” Whatever it’s called, it is intended to ignite student curiosity about […]

  58. […] who support K-9 teachers. Last week, I eavesdropped on two of them as they tried to come up with a 3 Act Math Story in style of Dan Meyer that would apply to division 1 students. This week’s Parks and […]

  59. […] Sounds like quite a job. Here’s why it’ll work. […]

  60. on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:29 amThe Lottery « Zero-Knowledge Proofs

    […] Lottery” in a math class. Then I began to wonder if a 3773 short story would fit with Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Mathematical Story Telling.  Here’s what I would try with this […]

  61. on 02 Dec 2011 at 10:28 pmThe 2011 CMC-N Sessions | Resources

    […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  62. […] together. I was right, but I had no how right I was until we were starting into my explanation of mathematical storytelling. I was showing shots from the first acts of Star Wars, Jaws, and Raiders of the Lost Ark and the […]

  63. […] a little more than that; lots of things are fun, but I’d rather shoot for perplexing (thanks Dan), engaging–dare I say–riveting. There’s a reason kids play video games and watch […]

  64. on 10 Dec 2011 at 9:45 amRenee Goularte

    I was at your presentation at Asilomar (which was great!) and, in fact, was one of the people who started the Darth Vader music in the back. I’ve been thinking how to apply your “hook” idea to lower elementary students, K, 1st, and 2nd particularly, and 4th and 5th also, in ways that will include art-making. Any ideas on that from anyone would be welcome!

  65. on 23 Dec 2011 at 4:48 amBradley


    Thank you so much for sharing your Three Acts pedagogy! I actually met you at the 2011 Siemens STEM Institute before you gave your keynote presentation. I was truly inspired by your presentation and have been working with my math department in my middle school.

    I wanted to now share with you a Three Acts math problem that I created for my technology students. If you have any suggestions for future Three Acts math problems, I would greatly appreciate it!

    Best of your with your success!


  66. […] doc of course) of possible #anyqs created by Dan Meyer (the guy your probably saw this about. This post describes the three acts of #anyqs.  Here are some blog posts describing more about the idea […]

  67. […] tension – one I am much more confident is an essential one of our profession – between storytelling and avoidance of theft – I discussed a particular case of this tension in the fourth […]

  68. on 18 Feb 2012 at 10:36 pmThe 2012 ITSC Sessions | Session I

    […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  69. on 05 Mar 2012 at 11:30 amThe 2012 Kent Sessions | Webinar

    […] LinkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  70. […] in class (and will repeat tomorrow), and it worked out quite well. So now I want to share, my first 3 Acts […]

  71. on 16 Mar 2012 at 11:28 amThe 2012 CSMC Sessions | Plenary

    […] LinkThe Three Acts of a (Lousy) Mathematical Story […]

  72. […] born for them.” As I got deeper into his talk I thought, wow, this has Dan Meyer and his 3 Acts brain-child all over it. Not the joke part. But Dan’s funny too. Think “lesson” […]

  73. […] call that a first act. There are still two more acts and a lot of work yet to do, but the first act is above and before everything […]

  74. […] been following Dan Meyer’s process with his 3 acts for quite a while.  I greatly appreciate the public nature in which he develops ideas and there is […]

  75. on 12 Apr 2012 at 12:05 amStroboscopische foto | Bernard Blogt

    […] Bron: Dan Meyer (cc-by) via zijn weblog […]

  76. on 15 Apr 2012 at 1:29 pm101 Questions | mathcoachblog

    […] which others have contributed for each item.  The pictures and videos are meant to serve as “first acts“, mathematical conversation-starters which lead to problem-solving […]

  77. on 22 Apr 2012 at 12:31 pmJerzy

    This metaphor reminded me of your storytelling approach and why kids need a good Act Three:

  78. on 03 May 2012 at 6:30 pmThe 2012 MCTM Sessions | Workshop

    […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  79. on 07 May 2012 at 9:22 pmTech Ed-dy » Math and PBL ramblings

    […] some ways I feel that Dan Meyer’s 3 acts approach to Math problems might be a good model to adopt when trying PBL in the math classroom in […]

  80. […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  81. on 08 May 2012 at 7:09 pmThe 2012 OAME Sessions | Workshop

    […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  82. […] The Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  83. on 22 May 2012 at 6:59 pm50 Ways to Wooster - CogDogBlog

    […] also illustrated the brilliant work of Dan Meyers in creating his Three Act approaches to math lessons, which could easily be applied to almost any discipline — see his three act resource for a […]

  84. […] Meyer takes a love of storytelling (compare the narrative of Star Wars to a typical math problem) and sets up some badass perplexing […]

  85. on 13 Jun 2012 at 3:47 amThe 2012 TIC Sessions | Workshop

    […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  86. on 21 Jun 2012 at 12:22 pmThe 2012 MSRI Sessions | Workshop

    […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  87. […] in math, see its value, know that it has purpose. However, my lessons are not “chock full of 3-Acts,” so it didn’t seem to quite capture the “spirit” of my […]

  88. […] lessons going, I should have time for some problem-based learning in class using resource like 3 Act math (even if I only steal other people’s first acts to use as lesson ‘hooks’ this […]

  89. […] of Khan’s videos. Others might like the polished overviews in MinutePhysics. You might prefer 3-act math stories or modeling […]

  90. on 25 Aug 2012 at 11:30 pm26 Agost « La capsa espiral

    […] Un mar de contes Intro to AI Duxlibri Generador exercicis matematiques Breu historia de l'Univers The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  91. […] learning target (SWBAT…) on the board—no matter how Hemingway-esque—is akin to skipping to act three, in the Dan Meyer’s sense of the term. […]

  92. […] all starts with the first act. It has to be so compelling, so unsettling, or so obvious, that a question gets asked from that […]

  93. […] problem sets are paper-based, which probably limits their engagement potential. In Dan-Meyer-speak, they could use some media-rich“Act 1′s.”  (Note: For all I know, Exeter uses […]

  94. […] This spreadsheet is from Dan Meyer’s excellent math education blog. A description of the Three Act Math task can be found here. […]

  95. […] the classroom in the other direction. First, start with an engaging problem. Look at Dan Meyer’s three act problems for one approach. Don’t spend a lot of time talking at your students from the get go. Have a […]

  96. on 08 Oct 2012 at 3:51 pmWeek 6 for Math 5321 – Joe Champion

    […] Three Acts […]

  97. […] am always blown away by Dan Meyer and his Three Act Math stories.  I guess I could say that I was inspired by the Three Act format, though I felt a bit […]

  98. […] Note : L’idée de la démarche en 3 temps n’est pas de moi, celle-ci a été développée par Dan Meyer et présentée sur son site web. J’ai ici essentiellement traduit et adapté l’article The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story. […]

  99. […] obvious parallel I saw here was the three-act lesson format that Dan Meyer is promoting.  At first the mental connection was just the overlap of talk about […]

  100. on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:39 pmFinding The Conflict in Math

    […] always, a never-ending hat tip to Dan Meyer for […]

  101. on 03 Jan 2013 at 1:35 pmBasketbola | Prime Factors

    […] This isn’t an original idea. […]

  102. on 12 Jan 2013 at 1:57 pmKeynote | The 2013 HCTM Sessions

    […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  103. […] From […]

  104. […] From […]

  105. […] these past 6 months.  Included in this reflection is thinking about how ideas, such as SBG or Dan Meyer’s 3 Acts, compares and contrasts with my own teaching philosophy, and I have only improved through reading […]

  106. […] math makes me want to teach it. If you’re not familiar with his writing and development of Three Act Math, you should read the linked post and go check out his site dedicated to free […]

  107. […] their solution, and these are the kinds of discussions that I love.  And the best part is that the 3rd Act, if you will, can be easily tested.  Each student can pick a container from home, provide […]

  108. […] Anyway… my three-act math task: […]

  109. […] math teacher with a bit of time and a PlayStation, I suspect this would make a very interesting 3 act problem for your […]

  110. on 09 Apr 2013 at 5:57 pmJoshua

    Dan, I attended your workshop last year at the Punahou School in Hawaii. I want to know what the link is to your 3-act activities to start integrating them into my class.

    Josh Lyons
    Assets School

  111. on 10 Apr 2013 at 1:40 pmDan Meyer

    Hi Josh, our workshop page was here. The webpage with all my three-act tasks is here. If you’re looking for something else, please let me know.

  112. […] terms of recreating her math classroom, Jennie demonstrates a problem put forward by Dan Meyer: the Three Acts of the Mathematical Story. After watching the video by Mr. Meyer, her students […]

  113. […] terms of recreating her math classroom, Jennie demonstrates a problem put forward by Dan Meyer: the Three Acts of the Mathematical Story. After watching the video by Mr. Meyer, her students […]

  114. on 17 Apr 2013 at 10:41 am3 Act Math | When Math Happens

    […] The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story […]

  115. on 20 Apr 2013 at 10:59 pmTeaching Maths with technology

    […] and her colleague Linsey Rose successfully adapted Dan Meyer’s Three Acts for junior classes. Following their lead, I created my own video, using the Reel Director app. My […]

  116. […] could post about success we have had using lessons currently available on the internet, like from Dan Meyer’s 3-acts or […]

  117. on 29 Apr 2013 at 7:02 pmGrading Tests | Informal Math

    […] attempted to “3-Act” this problem using the following […]

  118. […] las “matemáticas en tres actos” (three-act math). Él lo explica muy bien en esta entrada (en inglés), pero voy a intentar explicarlo en nuestro idioma con la ayuda de un ejemplo. […]

  119. […] for understanding: what happens during the first, second, and third acts of a mathematical story? What are your moves? What questions do you ask your […]

  120. […] but I think that the stories have to be intrinsic to the science and math, like Dan Meyer’s The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story, not stories about science, which seems to be what both blogs are […]

  121. […] but I think that the stories have to be intrinsic to the science and math, like Dan Meyer’s The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story, not stories about science, which seems to be what both blogs are […]

  122. […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]

  123. […] the start of creative inquiry, Meyer sees opportunities for problem posing as the first act in a 3-act curriculum strategy that grounds mathematical thinking in real world problems. If you’d like to think more about […]

  124. […] classroom.  He explains the overall “lesson design” of  3Acts on this post, “The Three Acts of a Mathematical Story“and has recently started a journey into “how” to teach the acts.  His narrative […]

  125. […] Conference in May.  We were particularly inspired by his ideas around videos in mathematics and Three Act Math Movies.  We both really like the powerful learning opportunities that we see within the math movies. […]

  126. on 12 Jun 2013 at 9:22 amTrip – class plan version 1

    […] I am trying to set this up as an in-class deal with my lower-level freshmen. I am trying to follow what Dan Meyer set up as a framework here. […]

  127. […] — that’s one of the biggest differences between great and awful.  The other is this: use the video to show phenomena, not explanations.  Get the students hungry, then let them ask for the instructions and info.  […]

  128. […] In another post I talked about how a science exploration of water allowed us to read photographs and short informational text closely. I liked this post partly because it turned out so elegantly well (not all lessons do), but partly because it was a simple change up of a lesson structure that I would have used in the past to a structure that plunged right into a mysterious event that we closely observed and wondered about. (Here, I’ve benefited from the work of writer/consultant, Vicki Vinton, the writing and consulting team of Burkins and Yaris, as well as some of the work on question-first lesson design put forth by Dan Meyer in math.) […]

  129. […] get asked frequently if anyone is compiling 3-Act Math stories in the style of Dan Meyer or learning through problem solving activities specifically for […]

  130. […] This problem solving activity, originally posted on my own blog in this form, encourages students to explore questions they have after watching a parks and recreation video. Depending on where they go with it, they will likely look at volume, mass and capacity. This has become one of my favorite activities. It is presented in Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Math Story style. […]

  131. […] Dan Meyer’s inspirational @ddmeyer  Three Act Maths as a model, we can incorporate multimedia and digital tools to redefine the learning experience. […]

  132. on 02 Jul 2013 at 8:15 amFlip 2.0 | Mr. MathTutor's Blog

    […] who is now finishing his doctorate at Stanford in Math Ed, has an amazingly active blog.  His 3 Act math lessons, which are growing in number weekly, seem like the new standard in teaching math.  Act 1 […]

  133. on 02 Jul 2013 at 8:29 amdy/dan » Blog Archive » Hot Links

    […] Atkin is translating the three-act task design structure to science […]

  134. […] 4 of my Video Design for Learning Class saw my partner and I creating scripts for our Three Act Math Movies.  We tried to carefully plan out the sequence of the problems we were trying to create and the […]

  135. […] Meyer’s approach has gained a lot of traction in the math world. He describes his “Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story” on his blog. For fans of these visual stories, they are being collected and described by […]

  136. […] creatingthinkers It's good to know algorithms, but better to understand them, and how and when to use them. « Mathematics is a performance July 12, 2013 // 0 […]

  137. […] wants to count that?  They’ll be begging for a generalization.  Once again, Dan Meyer is a treasure trove of wonderful ideas in this vein, and I will be talking more about the Three-Act method in later […]

  138. […] linkThe Three Acts of a Mathematical Story […]