To My Amigos North Of The Border:

I’m offering a day-long professional development session in Calgary [pdf] on 3/21/11 and Edmonton on 3/22/11. This will be my first trip to Canada. I have no idea how I’m going to get any sleep between now and March!

Perplexity: Coin of the Mathematics Classroom

Perplexity is invaluable currency in the mathematics classroom. Perplexity is the stuff of being perplexed. When students are perplexed, they aren’t asking “when will we use this in real life?” because they’re too busy chasing down answers to rich mathematical questions they came up with themselves. When curriculum is perplexing, the teacher doesn’t have to announce the day’s objective, because perplexity nudges yesterday’s concept naturally into today’s. In this hands-on workshop, we will discover methods for capturing perplexity, from YouTube videos, TV shows, and movies; for creating perplexity, using free and cheap technology; and for presenting perplexity, using pedagogy that draws in every learner, that knows when to give the student help and when to get out of the student’s way.

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


  1. I will most certainly be there. Is this part of the Edmonton Teacher’s Convention?

    Thanks for blogging. I really appreciate the ideas, and more importantly, your courageous approach. I dislike announcing the daily objective. It takes the air out of the room, the critical thinking, the courageous methods students will come up with on their own. Sometimes I just want to tell the students that today you will learn, with or without the direction of my lesson.

  2. This is nice for those lucky enough to live in Canada. Now, for the rest of us, will you please do a world tour or at least publish some books and dvds? :) (or have you already?)

  3. I worked with a teacher (in Alberta) last week that told me he had only ever used chalk and his brain to teach math. He said he’d recently seen a video about filling a water tank (sound familiar?) and now wants to learn how to use technology in his classroom. You are already reaching more Alberta teachers than you’ll ever know and I’m excited that you’ll get to be here in person to share your expertise!

  4. Congrats, Dan! The teachers are in for a fantastic learning experience!! I’ve been to both cities and was not only impressed by the gorgeous weather and landscapes, but also by the kind hearts and amazing spirits of the people. Enjoy!

  5. You are right about perplexity and well stated. There is a wonderful UCSD professor, Guershon Harel, talks about not putting up the objective, etc. because it is a distractor. I know when I do math (high school math) in his institutes for teachers, all I know that I’m going to be working on problems. The problems have these twists and turns and they way he draws out the math from our approaches and answers is like a wonderful, mathematical mystery tour! Good luck! I wish I could be there.

  6. We are so excited that you are coming to Edmonton! I have been sharing your Ted Talk video and I love the conversations that occur between math educators after we use this as a springboard to discussion. I am so thrilled when teachers begin to go through textbooks and other teacher materials and they all of a sudden can see the four layers in a problem. It becomes so much clearer how they can create opportunties for increased student engagement and authentic learning. Thanks for helping make this possible.

    I sure hope that the ERLC has reserved a room big enough for your session!

  7. Hey Dan!

    Super excited about your visit to Edmonton! I am a student teacher at the University of Alberta and am consistently excited about all your ideas! I’ve worked as a tutor for some time now and hear horror stories from students about terrible math classes and tons of homework! I hope to be able to use your ideas in a classroom relatively soon!

  8. Dan – I am a huge fan.

    Your now famous TED talks video has made the rounds of district math coordinators across BC and is the subject of much conversation among my peers in schools and colleagues at Simon Fraser University. You have crossed the border in so many ways! :o)

    I am working now to connect all the learning outcomes in our western Canadian common curriculum for grade 10 to WCYDWT tasks and I am having a blast doing it. It’s some of the most fun I have had in curriculum “re”-design in a long time. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Hoping to make it out to your talk in March, but barring that, I’d like to echo Amanda’s invitation to come to Vancouver. It’s the prettiest — and most math-friendly — city around!


    PS — BTW, we here in Canada prefer to be known as “vos amis” rather than “my amigos”, but we’ll work on your French come March. :o)

  9. I agree with @Amanda, I’d love to have you come to Vancouver. I’m sure I can round up a couple of hundred Math teachers in BC who would love to participate in a workshop.

  10. Add another request for those of us not even close to being local to these… east coast Canada as well, please! I mean, I know Newfoundland is probably out of the question but if you came as close as Nova Scotia I’d make the effort!