I opened up the Computer-Using Educators annual conference in Palm Springs last month. That talk made its way online this week.

I started by describing why edtech presentations often make me aggravated. Then I described my “edtech mission statement,” which helps me through those presentations and helps me make tough choices for my limited resources.

**BTW.** I was also interviewed at CUE for the Infinite Thinking Machine with Mark Hammons.

**Featured Comment**

LOL. Funny stuff!

High praise.

## 23 Comments

## Michael Pershan

April 9, 2014 - 8:17 amLOL

Funny stuff!

## Xavier

April 10, 2014 - 12:37 amVery “perplex” ;-)

Good, very good. Just a suggestion: why don’t you put a video for simulate how to do class. What are the real sessions that you do with your students?

Can you record some kind of session? For example, how do you explain the equations? What are the question do you ask? What are the question that do you expect students ask you?

Sorry for my bad english

## RandomDude

April 10, 2014 - 8:56 am@Xavier: Check out this post in which Dan demos how to teach a class (to teachers rather than students, but still a perfectly good model): http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2013/teaching-with-three-act-tasks-act-one/

## Xavier

April 11, 2014 - 2:20 am@RandomDude: I know that. I used several times, but I miss something more “complete”. Something like what happens next? After 3-act presentation, what follows? What are your objectives (related to procedures, knowledge, actitude, …)? What is your schredule? I suppose that you don’t use *always* 3-act activities for teaching whole leson.

I would be very glad if we have a “demo” about Dan Meyer’s sessions ;-)

Thanks,

## Bryan Anderson

April 11, 2014 - 5:41 amOne thing that I always try to do is loop knowledge, so while you might finish a 3-act presentation and students learn the content- you keep finding items of “perplexity” to arouse questions. Hopefully some of the questions students bring up will link back to prior classroom learning, if not- be sure to recount times in the class when it has during discussion.

## Bryan Anderson

April 11, 2014 - 5:44 am“Perplexity” from a urinal, have to love the odd places where Math sneaks up on you.

## Jenni

April 11, 2014 - 8:12 amI very much enjoyed this video at CUE, and all vidoes I’ve seen of you, Dan (see his TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover#

and a presentation he did in Australia

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9sYzMG-43k )

As inspired as I am by your lessons and ideas, as a new high school math teacher I am unsure where to inject these “perplexity” activities. I understand and appreciate that the goal is to get students curious about the content, curious about the world around them, and to hopefully realize that math can be the tool that helps them… resolve their curiosity. However, let’s say that you, as a teacher, block out a week to teach volume of geometric shapes (or… let’s say you do this at the beginning of… a chapter on coins/arithmetic/money? A chapter on quadratics? A chapter on summation notation?). You show the perplexing lesson about the man who built a pyramid of pennies and that is, indeed, interesting and perplexing and I totally understand the goal. It is an excellent video. Would you then, after the exercise has been completed and the extension has been addressed, lecture a bit and have more typical problems for students to practice on in the following days? Would you model math that they’ll need for tests/SAT/ACT/etc and then give independent work relating to the perplexity activity? Or do you leave it as a stand alone (I sincerely hope not) and then go back to more mundane math class tasks?

I would love to live in a world where this is how I can teach math – “let’s get curious, ask our own questions, solve our own problems, and tackle the math as we go!” – but we unfortunately have things like standardized tests and I would feel terrible if I weren’t showing students the type of word problems that they’re going to see on those tests. After all, their curiosity will serve them a lifetime, but colleges can be less forgiving of mediocre test scores… Those have to fit in there somewhere, right? How do you then get your students to be capable at those types of problems? Am I naive to ask because of my newness to this field?

Dan, I’m a big fan of yours. Thank you for all that you do and how you bring all us math teachers together!

## Bryan Anderson

April 11, 2014 - 9:23 am@ Jenni: Would you then, after the exercise has been completed and the extension has been addressed, lecture a bit and have more typical problems for students to practice on in the following days? Would you model math that they’ll need for tests/SAT/ACT/etc and then give independent work relating to the perplexity activity?

I am not sure what Dan’s reply will be, but this is how I would address these points. First, the only real need to address “typical” problems is for teaching to the test. If you explore the perplexity correctly, the math should be presented such that there comes a time when a statement or equation emerges that is a perfect example of “typical.” The math you model are dictated by how you choose to guide student inquiry. When students come up with a list of questions- hopefully your reason for having students watch a video or view a picture is listed. If not, you can pose your question in relation to theirs. I think Dan stated it this way: Those are all great questions and I hope we can answer them all but I need you to help me with this question first.

Standardized testing has real world consequences but we have to not let that define how we introduce mathematics to our students. Showing students perplexity or engaging them in this way does not shut down your options, it just opens more. You, as their teacher, have every opportunity to guide students through the content and make explicit the math behind the tasks. There is nothing more powerful in the mathematics classroom than being able to reference to a great task you worked on in class when a “typical” problem comes up. You will find that there are less students who ask’ “How do i do this?” and state “This is just like ___, this is how we find our answer.”

## Leslie

April 11, 2014 - 10:52 amOk, I got a Delicious account.

## Zach

April 12, 2014 - 6:58 am+1 to Jenni’s comment.

In teaching exponent rules, I honestly have tried to think of models to help students remember that (a^b)^c = a^(bc) or a^(-1) = 1/a. I consider exponent rules one of the “boring bits” of the mathematical world. There are other topics like it.

I tried to have an tournament among my students in applying exponent rules to see if that would act as a motivator. It worked temporarily, just as Dan predicted in the video. No matter how many times I give a reassessment in class, some people seem to not be learning it as I would like. I’m just not sure that there is an alternative to direct instruction of these things.

For things like exponent rules, students are expected to act like a computer programmer and be meticulous in how they work through the problems. Because exponents are just symbols to my students, sometimes they make up their own rules (as any teacher probably knows).

Numerical exponents have meaning, but what about the abstract, variable counterparts?

In your ideal world, would you teach exponent rules, especially with abstract bases? If you would, where do they fit? If not, then how do you help students take the derivative of (x+4)^3 later in calculus?

## Dan Meyer

April 12, 2014 - 1:51 pmI’m copying a large portion of

Jenni’scomment because I think it’s very important:In general, I try to provoke a

needfor something new, teach that new thing, and then provide practice for that new thing. That practice will often reveal which students needmorepractice and which students need challenges that take them deeper into the material. Then I try to alter what we’ve been learning so that it reveals the need for thenextthing we’re going to learn.That practice may look rather traditional. Exercises, problem sets, practice test questions, all in an effort to achieve some kind of fluency and automaticity. Ideally it’ll feel the same to the students as it does to me when I’m practicing cross-court shots from the baseline in tennis. Over and over and over again, but never boring because I know when and where I need it in a game.

Let me know where I can clarify and expand,

Jenni.## Travis

April 12, 2014 - 4:01 pmThanks for the keynote.

‘Today’s Tantalizer’ is what I will call mine.

## Bob Lochel

April 13, 2014 - 6:53 amThe need for quotes around “Santa” is the same reason McDonalds must call their cookies “Chocolaty Chip”.

The summary you give to Jenna above is fantastic; there is a place for traditional practice, but the unit structure is often what requires the most attention.

In my years as math coach, the most efficient piece of advice I would give to teachers is this: think about your favorite problem from a unit, the problem you look forward to, or that problem which is number 158 in the last section which you know will generate all kinds of discussion. Without fail, this problem is often done last, as the summary of all ideas in the unit. OK, why not do it first? Keep it simmering in the background, flesh it out as ideas are developed and pratice occurs. It often doesn’t take a sledgehammer to make a good unit great.

## Jenni

April 13, 2014 - 6:48 pmThank you all so much for your responses. It continues to amaze me that I can so readily learn from your experiences and your perspectives… I only hope to return the favor one day. (Uh, patience is one of those finite resources, right? Crap.)

Dan, I am very grateful you took the time to respond. I am sure to have more questions as I attempt to improve my teaching practices, but for now, you and others have addressed my initial questions. I would be so star-struck if I were to run into you at a conference, but I do hope to see you present live sometime as I have been very impressed with the videos I have seen. Thanks again!

I particularly liked what Bob Lochel said about finding the epitomic math problem from a unit, and I think this is a great place to start for me. As I see it, ideally I would organize my units around such a problem and radiate outward from there, fleshing out the beginning (within a perplexity framework) and end (an assessment of some kind) and filling in the rest using Bryan Anderson’s notion about guiding student inquiry. (Whew, I’m already exhausted with the possibilities of paths a topic could diverge and evolve into – graph theory anyone?) The tough part for me is finding that cohesion and fluidity, but that just might come with experience (uh… and trial and error. Sorry kids!) After all, SOMEONE at sometime had to encounter a problem where this topic was necessary and/or useful, right? Right??

## Mr K

April 15, 2014 - 5:04 am>In your ideal world, [how] would you teach exponent rules, especially with abstract bases?

My answer to this was a bit long, so I answered it on my own blog. I hope the self promotion isn’t inappropriate.