Friday, December 14, 2012

The Real World Sucks

Yesterday I finally did my own 3-act math task with the students.  We have been studying linear programming and this past summer, my son and I created a little movie to help with this topic.

Here is act 1:

And act 2:

Finally, act 3:

The First Thing I Noticed:

While walking around to see how the students were doing, I found one of the students crying.  She was upset because the answer didn't come easily to her.  A nearby student was trying to help her make sense of the problem and go over step-by-step where she may have gone wrong.  

At the end of class the girl came up to me to talk about the problem.  It really frustrated her that the work didn't come easily, since all the previous problems we did in class on this topic did.  First she thought that maybe it was because the information was given in photos rather than words.  She walked away and a few seconds later came back and declared that she didn't eat a good lunch and that could have contributed to the problem.  She walked away again only to return and said, "I know what the problem was.  I didn't know what the problem was asking."  

Ah-ha!  My response:  "In real life, we don't always know what the question is."  

To many of my students, especially the college prep students, math is this neat, tidy, little box of rules and procedures.  The questions are clear, the work is precise, and the answer is solid.  Once we step out of this little box of perfection, it gets frustrating.  

I like to escape from the real world once in a while to a nice long math problem (you thought I was going to say bath, didn't you?).  The joke in my family is that to keep my mind off of the pain while in labor, my husband would give me math problems to do in my head.  Okay, that's not a joke.  

The Second Thing I Noticed:

When I played the third act, no one was surprised.  You have all seen Dan Meyer's videos where the students watch the third act and there are oh's and ah's.  Not here.  They didn't even need to see the third act.  The problem with this 3-act math task is that it's too perfect.  Life isn't perfect.  

I think that I will keep this 3-act math task.  I believe it is a nice stepping stone into more life-like problems.  

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