I love hearing Dan Meyer speak; he always “hits the nail on the head” in a simple, creative, and eye-opening way. A recurring educational topic around the Common Core standards for mathematics has been the overemphasis on computation and the under emphasis on mathematical reasoning. Many of us have learned math in the traditional way; we are excellent at computation (repeating procedures over and over again until we know the concept like the back of our hands), but struggle with reasoning and exploration. The five symptoms that educators are doing math reasoning wrong in their classrooms are areas where mathematics teachers are challenged on a daily basis.
The eagerness for a formula (#5) is something that I have noticed in my classroom, especially with high-achieving students. Dan says that they have an “impatience with irresolution,” becoming frustrated when they can’t get the answer quickly. This can be a destructive mentality because they expect to solve simple problems as quickly as possible rather than fully appreciating or understanding the why behind it.
Furthermore, this mentality has actually made our kids weaker communicators. They are used to being given notes and procedures, then using those procedures to compute and calculate, then discussing what they have done at the end of class. According to Dan, this process is backwards; the math needs to serve the conversation, the conversation doesn't serve the math!
Curriculum modification is an area that I am now spending a great deal of time on in my own practice as well. I focus on structuring problems in a way that leads to students exploring and creating mathematics on their own; they are given the opportunity to be patient problem solvers and utilize math reasoning to solve real-world problems.
Step 1: Eliminate all the sub-steps of a problem→ students need to create these on their own and figure out what they need to do.
Step 2: Get rid of distractions with specific information that you will need LATER to solve the problem→ Ask the students, “What really matters here in this diagram?” or “What information do we really need?”
Step 3: Ask the question in the shortest and simplest way possible.
Step 4: Innovate for the 21st century by taking a picture of the actual scenario in real life.
Above and Beyond: Record a VIDEO of someone filling the tank up. The pace of the video is agonizingly slow and students begin to wonder, “How long is this going to take?” There is the hook!
The beauty of problems like this is that all students can engage with the curriculum; practically everyone wants to guess in the beginning. Dan says that kids are, “no longer intimidated by math because we are redefining what math is” in our classrooms. From a practical standpoint, teachers no longer need to get our answers from the back of a textbook either; we just watch the end of the movie to see what happens!\
"Dan Meyer at TEDxNYED - YouTube." 2010. 15 Feb. 2015 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlvKWEvKSi8>