Mathematical Modelling (Or, life after word problems)

At a recent training day, we looked at developing the teaching of mathematical modelling. Just as Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) does, we’ll call this ‘3 Act Maths’. The presentation, should you wish to remind yourself of it, is here:

These are the principles of 3 Act Maths:

Act 1

Have an objective in mind framed as a question. Prepare an image/video which would prompt this question and others. Keep it short, with little literacy demand. Find out what questions children are thinking of and clarify the planned question.

Act 2
Get children to work for the information needed to solve the problem rather than giving it to them in a neat little package. Ask: What information do you need? Why is that important? What do you mean? Etc.

Model how to do the maths needed. Generate success criteria. Get children to practise, making sure that they do lots of calculating and that you intervene as necessary with guided groups.

Reveal the necessary information that children asked for and let them work through the problem. Have some ‘sequels’ ready to extend those that need further challenge – related questions but not identical with just different numbers.

Act 3
Reveal the answer to the children in a similar manner to how you started i.e. show them. Think of a way to show them that validates the use of maths, proving that it works.  Talk about the objective of the lesson, introducing formal mathematical vocabulary as necessary.

The following video is an example of how all three acts can be incorporated in one session.  However, It is not always possible to have an ‘Act 3’ in this manner.  The key to getting started with this I think lies in getting Act 1 right.  Have a go, find out how to make it work for your year group and enjoy!


3 thoughts on “Mathematical Modelling (Or, life after word problems)

  1. Pie Corbett

    Can we use the same sort of approach with teaching writing? So the writing task comes as a challenge – and they then discuss how to tackle the challenge?


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