Dan Meyer on Real-World Math
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Dan Meyer on Real-World Math


– Hi my name is Dan Meyer. I taught high school math for six years to students who did not like math and now I’m on a doctoral fellowship at Stanford studying curriculum design and teacher education. So, what I’m doing is I’m taking a camera out, a video camera or a photo camera, and I’m taking a picture of that real world scenario in such a way that the question that’s
buried at the bottom in the last step of the textbook problem is the first thing on that student’s mind. I wanna make that question irresistable to a student so they
have to know the answer. Then I take that interest and I layer math on top of it. Our goal of my class is to let math serve conversation. Let math serve prediction and betting and arguing, not the other way around. We don’t do all of that to serve the math. So here’s an example, is I took a flip camera out, little cheap camera, put on a tripod, and I shot a basketball
shot in front of it. And then I took that video file I just carved it up and I made this half video where this ball kinda strobes in the air, and then hovers halfway between me and the hoop. And that’s a good moment because I don’t have to ask the question there. You know what the question is. The students are feeling the question. Is that ball going to go in the hoop? And from there I can take
bets and predictions. We all put a guess on the record. I show a few more shots, some that are obviously going to miss, some that may make it. And from there, you
want to know the answer. Am I right or wrong? And so I throw you into a simulator where you are modeling the
parabola on top of that and you can see it’s going to continue and miss or go in. And the best part about using multimedia in these instances, one of the great parts, is that I don’t have to turn to the back of the teacher’s edition and tell you, well the textbook says, you’re right. Or as a teacher, I say, you’re right. We just watch the end of the video. And from that I can be a co-learner with my students. We’re working on it here and they’re asking me, am I right? I’m saying, beats me, let’s find out. It’s a good moment. Another example is the classic boat in the river problem which students on paper have a hard time wrapping their heads around it where you have a kayaker going upstream and downstream. So I’m thinking where can I find an upstream and a downstream in my day to day life? And take the camera out there and film it. And it occurs, an escalator. I can walk up the down escalator and that’s going against the current. So I take my camera, I shoot it and then I set the end of the video up in such a way that the question on everybody’s mind is how long is it going to take him to go up the down escalator? You see me pause there and its hard not to think that question. And from there, we take guesses. What do you think? One minute, two minutes, ten seconds? I’ll ask you for, what do you know is a wrong answer? I’ll ask you, my struggling learner for a wrong answer. Give me a number that’s too high, that’s too low. And from there, I’m involving students with a very low investment, that has huge return. Because you’re setting an error balance on your answer already. Or here’s an example. How long will it take
to fill up a water tank? You gotta a hose, it’s filling up a tank slowly, agonizingly slowly, and pretty soon you’re wondering, man, how long is it going to take to fill this up? And from there, you have to ask a question that is nowhere in textbooks that I’ve used. You have to ask the question, what information do I need to solve this problem? Textbook usually gives
you that information. Where as here, you gotta ask yourself what matters? Does the height of the tank matter? Does the flow rate matter? And then we give you that info, you work the problem out and we can show you the answer. Fast forward to the end of the video and you can see how long it took to fill up that water tank. It’s a harder and more fun problem than my textbook offers my students. It’s asking them to do more and they’re having more fun doing it. And that’s a crazy kind of double win.

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30 thoughts on “Dan Meyer on Real-World Math

  1. Very fine ideas here! Predictions regarding pendulum motion (varying string length, bob weight, etc.) can be very effective. When students take lots of data and see eventually, a physics equation modeling the behavior that suggests a gravitational constant may be involved, they are more likely to have a Gee Whiz! moment regarding "g." It takes time to discuss, predict, get data and see the math science connection. Are we willing to give students the time to discuss, argue, and experiment?

  2. These are AWESOME ways to have kids think about math!! I bet kids rather do this than work from the book.. Now to think about putting this in a classroom when all this technology is not available…thanks for this video!!!

  3. its called geogebra and its freeware!! it does pretty much everything sketch pad does and more. i'm upset that i discovered it after bitonga geometer's sketchpad

  4. Ok, this is clearly NOT an expert question but does this method ever get to using a formula or actually solving? I mean with the escalator example all I heard him request is guesses? Does this just boil down to educated guessing? I'm not getting it!

    I'm personally trying to teach myself math so just looking for new and innovative ways to do that!

  5. math teachers often forget its the problem that came first then the math..most math teachers teach it the other way around which is why many students don't get it. Agreed word promblems should always be the way to introduce a concept along with the vocabulary not formula then the word problems which most teachers skip over..

  6. This video is basically useless without listing the software used to achieve. it. Please give details in the comments so we can actually try the things shown. Cheers.

  7. I am the owner of maths mad easy. I must say great job for this is the reason why most students hate and don't understand maths.

  8. World Mentoring Academy has brought these great curiosity Life problems into the MOOC for self-learning. In WMA, we help Teachers, Parents & Student use these Life observations to stimulate Math learning desire.

  9. I love this Dan! This is exactly what we are doing with Horse Lover's Math. Building on a real-world passion and interest and letting the math flow naturally out of that. And – there is a lot of math used in the horse world!

  10. This was incredibly clear and seems to use the recent advances in accessibility to interactive applications required to teach this way to the fullest extent. It does not provide a more effective – and significantly less efficient – learning method than a book that exclusively deals with the theory and questions the regular way, but is extremely useful for teaching children that are not (or marginally) interested in the subject matter.

  11. For ther last problem, i said flow rate and size matter. Would I be in thoery right? There is definitly more than one answer prob. thanks

  12. I really enjoyed Dan's Ted Talk where he discussed the water tank problem.  It was nice to see a couple more problems in context of real-life.  Would love to know what software he is using to model the parabolas.  Would also love to see the whole lesson plan for these examples.  Eventually the students have to "do" the math because there are no video cameras allowed on the standardized testing.

  13. This is pure genius. Thanks, Dan, for helping transform the math class experience for students. And for teachers. I enjoy my job more and kids enjoy math more.

  14. I really like the examples that Dan has provided. His website and openness to share resources is fantastic. Here is the problem I face when talking with many people regarding math education in general:

    "Real-world math" is not necessarily the solution. If you re-examine the water-tank problem, the textbook does still provide the same context of something happening in the real world. What makes Dan's example better is that it provides a better presentation of the problem in that it forces students to ask questions. Real-world is not a very well-defined concept, and one that is used too much. What we need is what NCTM, Common Core, and so many other math experts and problem solvers have been saying – a conversation and a way to use mathematics as a tool.

    Students want to feel like they have a fighting chance in solving problems. The set-up of the water tank problem and getting students to make guesses provides a platform for them to access the conversation at their level. Dan has explained this in various speeches, and there is good research to support this.

    My struggle is creating and finding ways to match these lessons to the standards I'm tasked with teaching. Make no mistake – this is not easy. No problem worth solving is.

    Right now I'm stuck with many lecture based lessons and haven't turned the corner to have a more constructivist approach classroom. I am making steps in that direction, and the lessons like what Dan has described are helping me get there.

  15. You are a genius ! I am training to be a maths teacher and I hate the fatct that I have to follow the status quo which is model an answer, let them go ahead and work, and correct them…thank you. I spent a lot of time on my starter to spark a question in their head which sometimes I am criticised for that. What is your advice for me I wonder ?

  16. I remember using arithmetic and algebra to estimate how long it would take to level up to LV12 against the Giants in that part on the first floor of Earth Cave in "Final Fantasy 1" for the NES when I was a kid, lol.
    I noted how much the required EXP Points seemed to increase for each Level, then I used this as a rough algebraic estimate to figure out how long the other Levels would take.

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