From Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover

Hat tip to Bob Scribner for this link. See Dan Meyer’s TED talk; he’s a wonderfully provocative blogger and full-time mathematics teacher.

I very much like his five points about mathematics teaching (really any teaching) at the talk’s end:

  1. Use multimedia.
  2. Encourage student intuition.
  3. Ask the shortest question you can.
  4. Let students build their problem.
  5. Be less helpful.

At the YouTube link someone posted this comment: “Largest problem with [Dan Meyer’s] idea is that in order for it to work the teachers actually need to understand math themselves.” The poster is right, although there’s more to it than just understanding the mathematics; a teacher like Dan Meyer has deep mathematical knowledge, an expertise, and the obvious facility that comes with that deep knowledge, echoing what the 2008 report from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel had to say: That “teachers must know in detail and from a more advanced perspective the mathematical content they are responsible for teaching and the connections of that content to other important mathematics, both prior to and beyond the level they are assigned to teach.”

Shameless self-promotion: See a piece I wrote in March 2009 called Qualitatively Different: Mathematics Education for Teachers. It tries to get at some of this stuff.

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