Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dan Meyer's Three Acts of Math Story

Dan Meyer
I had the opportunity to hear Dan Meyer speak at the Math Council of the Alberta Teachers' Association. Here's some of what I learned:

Math should be like a good story:

  • Act I - A lot gets done without many words. Highly visual, multi-sensory experience with an essential question that hooks you. 
  • Act II - Students need the tools, information and resources they need to solve the essential question from Act I. Act II only happens if Act I was successful at hooking the student's interest.
  • Act III - The student is in suspense until the climax where the student actually experiences the fruits of their  efforts.
  1. Get to the hook quickly.
  2. Make the first act as visual as possible.
  3. Separate the first two acts.
  4. Ask your students to create the second act.
  5. Make the third act visual.
  6. Have a sequel ready to go.
It's not often in the real world that we collect the tools, information and resources that we need to solve a problem before we have identified the problem. Act I has to happen before Act II, but traditional textbook math questions typically gives a bunch of data before the kids ever identify a question. When math is experienced like this, students come to hate these naked numbers that are in search of a problem.

Give yourself one minute of video or one photo to tell the start of a mathematical story that will engage learners in asking a question. If it's a good video or photo, the teacher will not need to impose their questions on the learner because they'll have their own.

For a far more detailed description on the Three Acts of a Mathematical Story see Dan Meyer's post here. Dan blogs here and tweets here.

Here's Dan's Ted Talk:


  1. I love how his ideas are simple yet very effective. I'm sharing his inspiring video with a private tutor friend of mine.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Follow by Email