a/k/a Redesigned: Dan Meyer
Something I have been completely wrong about is the best way to use slide software in a math class. A few years ago I wrote a design series explaining how I use color theory, grid systems, etc., to clarify complex procedures, but the whole thing turns out to be simultaneously a) a lot more fun and b) a lot less time-consuming than that.
My reversal in slide design reflects a shift in my math pedagogy also. Far more important to me now than “developing fluency with complex procedures” is “developing a strong framework for interpreting unfamiliar mathematics and the world.”
I’m not trying to set up a false dichotomy here. We do both. Both are important. But all too often slides like that first one, with the classroom dialogue and solution method predetermined, cordon off classroom dialogue and student reflection onto very narrow paths. That kind of pedagogy does nothing to unify mathematics, tending, instead, to position complex procedures in isolation from each other, which is a very confusing way to learn math and a very laborious way to teach it.
Instead, I want my students to focus without distraction on a) how new questions are similar to old questions, b) how tougher questions demand tougher procedural skills, asking themselves c) which of their older tools can they adapt to these tougher questions?
For example, I put six equations on separate slides, equations we have seen. I asked, “how many answers are there?” One. Two. Zero. Etc.
Then I put up an inequality, tweaking the problem slightly, and quickly.
They told me there were lots of answers. I asked my students to start listing them. “7, 6, 5, 4.2, 4.1, 4,” etc.This became tiresome quickly and made the introduction of a graph — a picture of all those answers — clear and necessary.
Slide software makes it easy to sequence these mathematical objects, ordering and re-ordering them to promote contrasts and complements. Slide software lets me sequence these mathematical objects quickly, from anywhere on the globe, from photos and videos I take, from movies my students watch, from textbooks too. Graphic design is useful to mathematics, but I am happy to have discovered certain constraints on that usefulness and, simultaneously, higher fruit hanging elsewhere.
It is the curation of this mathematical media that interests me now, though I reserve the right to return to this space shortly and reverse myself again.