Fake-World Math: When Mathematical Modeling Goes Wrong and How to Get it Right

Fake-World Math was the talk I gave for most of 2014, including at NCTM. It looks at mathematical modeling as it’s defined in the Common Core, practiced in the world of knowledge work, and maligned in print textbooks. I discuss methods for helping students become proficient at modeling and methods for helping them enjoy modeling, which are not the same set of methods.

Also, a note on process. I recorded my screen throughout the entire process of creating the talk. Then I sped it up and added some commentary.

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. Liz Madisetti

    August 4, 2015 - 5:14 pm -

    I enjoyed the video, but at the same time feel a bit depressed, overwhelmed. I am definitely guilty of “country club” mathematics. That analogy hit home with me. As is true for most math teachers, I was a member of the country club since grade school and I love teaching fellow members. For the non-members I seem to just offer encouragement “You can join if you just put in more effort….” rather than providing tasks like “guesstimating” that would make them feel part of the club. Thanks for the inspiration and glad that I still have a month left before school starts up again!

  2. @Liz, thanks for your honest words here. All my best for your upcoming year. Do update us at some point on your progress towards making all your students full status members of the country club.

  3. As Dan has described on his blog, effective tasks reveal their purpose quickly; just as the goal of Angry Birds is immediately obvious, so too is that of an effective problem solving activity. So in this world of conceptual understanding and problem solving, what does it mean for a math activity to be “real?

  4. Very inspiring Dan, like all your other talks. Got some nice ideas for the upcoming year after watching this.