Clash of the Titans
Over at Dan’s site people have been discussing these last set of questions and we find, naturally, Dan promoting his brand of “Make the prompt scream the question you are looking for” and Karim Ani saying, “There are more interesting questions that go beyond a one minute clip or picture.”
How many “how many” questions can we put up with?
One of the biggest critiques of 101qs right now is that the questions are too simple.
- How many dominoes?
- How many combinations are possible?
- How many tickets?
- How many gumballs?
Just looking at the top of my site you will see clearly that I have drunk Dan’s Kool-Aid. I love anyqs, and the whole three act process. I know Dan's framework has directly made me a better teacher, and helped me to focus on more engaging class discussion, but I am beginning to find myself wanting more out of it. In my comment on Dan’s blog I express that my main answer for this question is that we must understand that 101qs.com, in its infancy, is only presenting the first act of a fuller narrative. We must use these videos as starters to the greater questions. Students want to experience mastery of concepts, they want to feel positive about their abilities, and we can enter these students much easier into this subject that we love so much with a question like “How many gumballs are in that dang machine?” It is fun, it’s nice, and students say to themselves, “I can do this!” Then they take to the math, and they realize, “I need to know a lot of information to solve this. What shape is that thing? Is it a prism? No, it’s a ball shape! What is the volume of a ball?” We enter with our sequels to these stories to propel their thinking, “How many gumballs could fit into this room? Into this whole school?” Students start adapting their thought to new situations, and they begin to see that this one little problem can extend far beyond just this picture.
Going for the Home Run
Once we have given students these chances to use their knowledge in differing situations we unload the brain busters. We ask the hard questions, we develop projects from here. After seeing so many of these “How many little things can fit inside one big thing (gummy bears, tickets, dominoes, gumballs, teacups...) the question that has been arriving in my mind is this, “Why do we measure things in g, mL, etc. and not gummy bears, or gumballs?” Get students to debate, and then create their own measurement systems. Have them create conversion charts, and think about how to create a system that measures mass, volume, as well as linear measurement. Have them reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of having their own measurement system. Have them present their measurement systems to the class, have them create lessons about the Billy-Standard-System. Then show them why the metric system is so awesome! They started their journey in the “How many?” river, but they are now swimming in the “What if?” ocean.
Where to Now?
Have I pulled this stuff off? Not yet, I’m still young, but I know that this whole 101qs thing is Dan Meyer’s attempt to pull the stunt on us as I want to do with my students. “Take some pictures,” he says, but underneath it all is the possibility to go wherever we want. So yes, if we discount these “How many?” questions as paltry, then that is all they will ever be, but if we keep pushing, we can turn these low floor questions into high ceiling discussions and projects. So grab your camera, grab your phone, and get some first acts loaded. We’ll work on the rest together later.