September 14, 2014

3 Act Tasks in the Classroom

Wooden Chest / Brenda Clarke / CC BY 2.0

Do you know the formula for the volume of a rectangular prism? As a mathematics teacher I was not concerned with my students’ memorizing the formula because we could just figure it out when we needed it. But it has been a few years (OK… it’s been a long time!) since I taught volume in my classroom. So, I decided to check out a video that I found on Twitter. The video was created by Kyle Pearce, a mathematics teacher in Ontario.

Pearce uses Keynote presentation software with animations to illustrate why the volume of a rectangular prism is determined with the formula V = lwh. His use of animations is not fluff but instead it enhances the explanation. The result is a video that is professional in style, simple to follow, and—most importantly—effective in helping students to understand the concept.

I explored his site a bit and then followed a link to his video about the volume of a cylinder. It’s interesting and useful… just as the first video is.  While there I found a link to Dan Meyer’s Hot Coffee 3 Act Math Task. This task is interesting to me… and it would be interesting to students. Is it a word problem? Yes. But this task is real. And it will seem so to students.

It's Easy As... / Mike Kniec / CC BY 2.0

I definitely needed to learn more about 3 Act Math Tasks, so I visited Meyer’s website to look for a good explanation of 3 Act Math Tasks. I found his description of The Three Acts of a Mathematical Story. And Teaching with Three-Act Tasks… with links to all three acts. He also publishes his task bank of 3 Act Math Tasks on his site. Lots of good resources to learn about and to use while you start experimenting with creating your own 3 Act Math Tasks.

When I returned to Pearce’s site I discovered that he also shares a list of 3 Act Tasks that he has created.


So what lessons can be learned from my explorations at these sites?
  1. Rich teaching resources can be found through Twitter,
  2. Many members of your PLN may freely share excellent ideas and resources,
  3. Storytelling can be effectively used in classrooms,
  4. Keynote (and other presentation software) can be used to create helpful videos for students, and--most importantly--
  5. The lesson plans from Pearce and Mayer are designed for mathematics classrooms; however, these ideas are not limited to mathematics education. The 3 Act Math Tasks storytelling strategy could be effectively used in history, language arts, science, and many other classes.
  6. And, of course, Twitter, your PLN, and presentation software can all be used well in other classes.

Have you tried creating a 3 Act History Task or a 3 Act Language Arts Task? Or something similar in your classroom?


Resources from this post...

Kyle Pearce

Dan Meyer

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