Teaching Subject-Matter Thinking via Fictional Scenarios

Credit: iStock.com/ikonacolor
Credit: iStock.com/ikonacolor
Dan Meyer pointed out in his 2010 TED Talk that math instruction tends to leave out the most important part of real-world problems: the process of analyzing a novel situation to determine what information and formulas are needed to solve the problem. Teachers bypass this first step by providing students with formulas and information, and the students learn to just plug the numbers into the formulas. They learn the process of doing math but not the mathematical thinking needed to do math in the real world. Meyer suggested that students should instead be given open-ended situations with a range of information, both relevant and irrelevant, and an open-question that requires them to put the problem itself together by identifying the relevant formulas and information, just as is needed in real life.

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