At risk of being a Bandwagon jumper…no, I am not going to apologize for giving Dan Meyer his props. I think that all professions must have a rock star and Dan has been at the top of the charts this year in mathematics education.
For me, watching Dan Meyer’s TED Conference Presentation was incredibly energizing, perhaps more so because it was forwarded to me by one of my favorite Language Arts teaching colleagues who wrote, “This video makes me want to be a math teacher!”
Dan’s presentation is a powerful burst of curriculum theory for mathematics educators. He critiques existing textbook problems and offers a model for opening up problems using 21st century technology. His goal: to make math problems real for students and engage them in model building.
What I like most in Dan’s presentation is the way his problems tap students’ curiosity and imagination. Dan is clearly leading his students in a mathematical apprenticeship full of creativity, modeling, and communication. His pedagogy explicitly asks students to see the world mathematically and to communicate their vision. What better motivation could students have for learning to collect and organize data, create graphs, and generate equations that model their data.
Dan’s approach is not unique in mathematics education. His pedagogy exhibits the qualities that I always liked in Cognitively Guided Instruction classrooms when I was a graduate student at UW-Madison. Each student is given the chance to solve mathematical problems with the opportunity of presenting his/her work as the carrot. Participation in a mathematical community using your own ideas or strategies is the true work of mathematicians.
Dan’s effective use of technology makes me wonder if we are entering a new era when it will be possible to engage middle and high schools students in real problems that take them deep into mathematics. Perhaps our current technologies will be as generative as the compass was in Ancient Greece?
I look forward to seeing Dan’s curriculum theory develop now that his path has taken him into Academia at Stanford. I also thank him for sharing his ideas so eloquently at the TED Conference. In the Mathcad Education Program unit at PTC, he has been influential on our thinking about the ways that Mathcad’s live math notebooking capabilities can support mathematics teachers, like Dan, who truly want their students to see the world from a mathematical perspective.
Keep up the good work Dan. We’ll be keeping our eyes and ears open.