Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Snow, man.

Checked out my 101qs submissions today to see the low perplexity scores. After checking up on Dan Meyer's blog I realized that my 'Snow, Man' pic had an honorable mention in his Top 5 for this week. I won't lie, I got excited. However, after reading his response to it, I realized that I had missed the mark slightly. My picture gives way to some basic questions, but could be better if planned out.
I would imagine if I showed this picture to my students I'd get questions like, "How much snow is that? What is the ratio between the three balls? How long until it melts?" and so on. These aren't bad, but are they really any better than a textbook problem? After all, the whole point of Act 1 is to get the students engaged and really interacting with the math behind the situation. I need something that will stimulate independent thought and make the students care; something that will allow them to envision themselves in it. Everyone builds snowmen, but who really cares about how much snow they've used to build it?
After reading the comments about how to redesign the problem, I've got some ideas to reproduce this in a few months. I liked the idea of comparing it to another snowman in a neighboring yard - introduce the competition element (after all, everything's better when there is a winner and loser). I could start by showing an aerial view of my yard along with a time-lapse video of me building the snowman in a methodical way, clearly using a certain amount of my yard. I could then pan out showing my yard again with the amount of snow that's been used already and the amount left. 
This could still produce the same questions as before, but now it could be expanded to "Who's snowman is bigger? What is the biggest possible snowman that could be built? How long would it take to build such a snowman? Could you combine the two to make a super snowman?' While these questions may not seen anymore advanced or intense, the redesign could get my students involved more. It wouldn't have as much of a 'ugghh, not this again' context, but would be more inviting. It would be more practical, more relevant, more realistic to their lives. Getting them engaged and thinking is the key, and this might just do it. I'll let you know in 9 months.
This has made me realize that I still have some work to do in creating these First Acts. While it can be done with almost any picture or video that inspires thought, they key is using the best possible option and format. Taking a basic picture like that above works, but does it work as well as I think? I need to think about these from a students' perspective and a teacher's perspective to get the best possible Act. Practice, practice, practice. Thank you 101qs and Mr. Meyer!

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