Monday, July 23, 2012

Two Days of Learning With Dan Meyer

As I mentioned yesterday, this week I'm facilitating some workshops at the Maine School of Science and Math. Last night's keynote was delivered by Dan Meyer. I had watched Dan's TED Talk many times and have his blog in my RSS feed, but last night was the first time I got to see him speak in person. Today, I sat in on one of workshops. What follows is my slightly edited notes from two days of learning with Dan Meyer. Please keep in mind that I'm not a mathematics teacher so my perspective is probably different than that of most of the audience which was almost entirely composed of math and science teachers.

Notes from the keynote (my thoughts in italics):

Kids have limited patience for new things. Choose wisely.
What's your rationale for selection?
My rationale is to ask myself if it will help students learn? 

Capture, share, and resolve peplexity.
Create perplexity not entertainment or engagement. In other words show students perplexing "problems."

Let's not pour ranch lets make better broccoli. 
This was a reference to Khan academy being ranch dressing and broccoli being old rote mathematics problems. Pose better questions, don't try to fancy-up boring questions. 

Dan's digital handouts for the week. 

Use Google Voice to record audio notes to yourself when you come across a perplexing problem/situation to share with students. 

Move from engaging questions to perplexing questions. 

Crowd-sourcing perplexing questions. Dan shared how he uses Twitter to post images and videos that he finds perplexing. Gather feedback from folks on Twitter as to the first questions that come to their minds when they see the video or image. 

Neat graph of water consumption in Edmonton during gold medal game of 2010 Olympics.
Google this and see if you can find the pattern. 

Wolfram Alpha forces us to change the mathematics questions we ask. 

Notes as a non-math teacher sitting in on a math instruction workshop. 
In other words, I was the student who "doesn't get math" in the group. 

Dan modeled what he talked about in his keynote. 

Showed a short time-lapse video that raised some perplexing questions from the class. 

Had everyone write down the first question that came to mind. 

Collect and posted the questions then had students vote on which ones they also like. Question with the most votes was the first the class tried to tackle. 

The class was tasked with finding out how many pennies were in the pyramid in the video

Before tackling the problem everyone had to write down their estimates as well as their "impossibly high" and "impossibly low" estimates. During debrief we learned that this is done so that students like me who "don't get math" and like to guess can satisfy the need for a gut-level reaction. 

On a personal note, as someone who was out of my element in a room of teachers who have forgotten more about math than I'll ever know, Dan was quite patient with me and indulged my desire to figure out the phraseology for using Wolfram Alpha to solve the problem. That experience proved to me that Dan definitely knows how to pose perplexing problems that can't be solved with a simple search on Wolfram Alpha unless you already know quite a bit of mathematics. I'm looking forward to learning more this week.