My talk from the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics last week was called “Why Good Activities Go Bad.” I hope a) you’ll have a look, b) you’ll forgive my voice, which as it happens I left at the Desmos Happy Hour the night before.
The talk is a deep dive on a single activity: Barbie Bungee.
But the goal of the talk isn’t that participants would walk away having experienced Barbie Bungee or that they’d use Barbie Bungee in their own classes later. Phil Daro has said that the point of solving math problems isn’t to get answers but to understand math. In the same way, the point of discussing math tasks with teachers isn’t to get more tasks but to understand teaching.
So during the first few minutes, I give a summary of the task relying exclusively on your tweets for photo and video documentation. Then I interview three skilled educators on their use of the task —Â Julie Reulbach, Fawn Nguyen, and John Golden. Two teachers saw students engaged and productive, while the third saw students bored and learning little.
What accounts for the difference?
My talk makes some claims about why good activities go bad.
Here are the previous five addresses I have given at the NCTM Annual Convention.
2017: Math is Power, Not Punishment
2016: Beyond Relevance & Real World: Stronger Strategies for Student Engagement
2015: Fake-World Math: When Mathematical Modeling Goes Wrong and How to Get it Right
2014: Video Games & Making Math More Like Things Students Like
2013: Why Students Hate Word Problems