Yesterday I had an intellectual need! I’m sure I have experienced this need before, but I wasn’t aware of what it was called. As a matter of fact, I have already spent 30 minutes trying to define it the way it was defined for me and I’m still typing and backspacing.
For the sake of time I am going to try to muddle through this. I apologize in advance to Dan Meyer because I know that there is no way I can type in several paragraphs all that I learned from his presentation yesterday. Have any of you ever struggled to motivate students to WANT to do mathematics? I’m just going to call you a liar if you say No. What are some reasons that students work in a mathematics class? Desire to earn a good grade, expectations from home, goals of academic scholarships, fear of the consequences,to make the teacher happy, just because…But what about ‘intellectual need’? Have you ever had students in your class want to ‘do mathematics’ simply because they ‘just have to know‘?
I can’t summarize for you who Dan Meyer is or all that he does. I can only point you to his site. http://blog.mrmeyer.com/ On the far right column you will see a link for Three-Act Math Tasks. If you don’t go and pull up and read at least one of these tasks (I recommend Soda Math), you won’t understand the following comments. We are not talking about typical text book problems.
One thing that I can do is summarize the ‘rules’ for generating intellectual need. These are my notes from yesterday.
1. We need to ask our students for estimates – privately and then publicly. Once all students write down their individual estimates and then share them publicly, they become invested in finding out the ‘answer’.
2. Delay the information, vocabulary, and knowledge a little bit. A problem was set up but no detailed information was provided. We were then asked to write down what we wanted/needed to know. In Soda Math we needed to know at least 4 measurements. However, Dan only provided 1 measurement. We were then told to estimate the remaining 3 measurements.
3. He kept us at the edge of our capabilities and provided extensions (sequels) as needed.
4. He recorded our thoughts and in particular highlighted the differences to create a controversy.
5. Asking students to prove or disprove statements they understand is very often full of intellectual need. Does this sound familiar? If it doesn’t how about these words – Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. Yep, straight from the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice.
6. As the instructor, Dan positioned himself as surprised by stuff he definitely wasn’t surprised by or acted as the bumbling know-it-all.
7. We were given huge numbers to force us to think beyond our small tools.
8. Unexpected or counterintuitive results makes people want to know why.
9. Everyone loves to be puzzled and unpuzzled.
I am still processing all that I experienced yesterday and will probably write again later as I wrap my mind around everything. I just didn’t want to delay getting the word out about this wonderful resource for mathematics teachers. Dan Meyer tasks are primarily for middle and high school content. However, he graciously directed us to additional sites: http://www.techsavvyed.net/archives/2352 provide video story problems for the primary grades. http://www.estimation180.com/ provides an estimation problem for every day of the school year. http://wyrmath.wordpress.com/ requires students to choose between two options and then justify their choices. http://wyrmath.wordpress.com/ is an additional site he shared. I just haven’t had the time to investigate it yet.