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.
- Get to the hook quickly.
- Make the first act as visual as possible.
- Separate the first two acts.
- Ask your students to create the second act.
- Make the third act visual.
- 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: