They started with Dan Meyer's world's largest coffee mug. The questions started flying, I provided information, and they were off to the races.
From this point we moved onto Dan's water tank. After showing Act 1, I actually got the question, "Do we have to watch this thing fill up? Its going to take forever!" I had never done this problem with my students, but thinking back to Dan TED talk, I got the exact reaction he described. Before Act 1 was even over, they were complaining about how long it would take and some actually starting focusing their attention elsewhere. When the video stopped, everyone erupted into, "Hey wait, isn't it going to fill up?" "Uh, Mr. Brandt, the video broke." "I wanted to see how much water their was!" The questions flowed naturally and they got to work. Below is a mashed up, kind of, gross, panoramic-type view of my board when all was over.
As I explained to my students after this problem, this is what pushed me towards math. I love the fact that every problem can be solved in numerous ways, some more creative than others, but they all take different aspects of math and combine them to form a solution. Its wonderful how all of these numbers and concepts fit together into a nice, complex package that is eerily consistent. This is exactly what I want to push onto my students. I want them to see where it all comes together and to see that any problem can be solved, even if you don't have the knowledge that you think is required. Through these 3 Act problems and allowing the students the run the curriculum through questioning, I believe I'm on my way. After my speech to them, I didn't have any students saying "Yeah, but you're a nerd. You're a math teacher, you have to care about this stuff." Instead, I saw heads nodding in understanding, as if to say, "Yeah, this is kinda cool."
I loved the way this day went. After these two problems, the students saw me project Dan Meyer's google doc list of 3 Acts, and they started requesting them. They were begging me for more problems! As a strict teacher that sticks to the curriculum, I said "Nope." NOT! We did some more! I teach geometry, but we were doing problems that weren't geometry related. Why? Because the desire to learn was present. No one in the room cared that we were moving on to topics outside of our current area of study because they wanted to be perplexed and solve some problems. If this isn't the goal of the teacher, I don't know what is.
All in all, it was a pretty sweet day.