“Oh, you think you have a rule? See if you can wreck it.”

I’m noticing that more kids are gaining confidence in looking for patterns, forming hypotheses and then seeing if they can make the hypothesis fail. The phrase that seems to be gaining ground when it comes to hypothesis testing is “wreck it” – as in, “Oh, you think you have a rule? See if you can wreck it.”

1. The phrase “see if you can wreck it,” and the toddler-knocking-down-a-tower-of-blocks spirit of destruction it conveys.
2. The fact that you are supposed to wreck your own conjecture. Your conjecture isn’t something you’re supposed to protect from your peers and your teacher as though it were an extension of your ego. It’s supposed to get wrecked. That’s okay! In fact, you’re supposed to wreck it.

BTW. When David Cox finds a free moment to blog, he makes it count. Now he’s linked up this spherical Voronoi diagram that shows every airport in the world and the regions of points that are closer to them than every other airport. “Instead of having to teach things like perpendicular bisectors and systems of equations,” he says, “I just wish we could do things like this.”

Of course you need perpendicular bisectors to make a Voronoi diagram, so David’s in luck.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

1. Ariel

April 7, 2014 - 8:43 am -

Great post! As a science teacher, I often phrase the hypothesis to the students as – go prove you theory! Your approach of – “see if you can wreck it” is SO refreshing for it pushes them to question, pushes the boundaries of comfort, and gives them the chance to understand that if their hypothesis is not supported, then they reached their goal! I love it for it then gets them to think further and reflect on what they are doing in a more meaningful way to stretch their minds. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

2. Jason Dyer

April 7, 2014 - 11:23 am -

“Instead of having to teach things like perpendicular bisectors and systems of equations,” he says, “I just wish we could do things like this.”

Of course you need perpendicular bisectors to make a Voronoi diagram, so David’s in luck.

If doing a project-based curriculum, how much can you do on the fly?

I’m about as project-based a guy as you can find, and I’m struggling. I can make activities which have them play football or set up car collisions or whatnot where somewhere in the center they are forced to solve a system of equations. However, even with the project motivation, without a lot of back setup they only get through that part with great difficulty, and without gaining much ability in solving systems of the equations since that was only 10% of the problem. Sandwiching a whole traditional “let’s learn how to solve systems of equations” lesson in the middle just seems to make things worse.

3. Dan Meyer

April 7, 2014 - 12:20 pm -

Jason Dyer:

Sandwiching a whole traditional “let’s learn how to solve systems of equations” lesson in the middle just seems to make things worse.

How does it work if you sandwich the traditional lesson at the start? Better, worse, or the same?

4. Jason Dyer

April 7, 2014 - 2:40 pm -

How does it work if you sandwich the traditional lesson at the start?

That’s what I end up having to do, for the most part. The problem is it loses a lot of the motivation the projects are supposed to provide in the first place. I get a little mileage out of project based objective posting but many of the lovely 3-Act effects get smothered.