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Problems with Conventional Math Problems

David Yourdon, a Content Dev @Knewton, proves we’re not just obsessed with the GMAT, LSAT, and SAT.

The academics team at Knewton has been buzzing about a video that one of our expert teachers, Chris Wu, sent around this morning. It’s a TEDx talk by Dan Meyer, a high school math instructor in Santa Cruz. The talk focuses on the virtues of what Meyer calls “patient problem solving” — where fewer formulas and inputs are fed to students and more active problem formulation is required of students.

For example, rather than giving students a train’s average speed and the distance the train needs to travel and asking them what time the train will arrive, why not ask them for the train’s arrival time and let them, in a group conversation, determine what information is needed to solve the problem? When they realize they need some kind of distance measurement, make them consult maps to find the distance in question; when they need a rate, let them research a train’s average speed. Students will learn to manipulate equations in the process, but more importantly, they’ll learn to think creatively about the real world. The result, as Meyer says, is that “the math serves the conversation; the conversation doesn’t serve the math.”

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