Maths - How to get more pizza

11th January 2013 at 00:00

What it's all about

When, in real life, are we confronted with problems where we are given the exact information required to solve them? If we do not expose our pupils to more realistic problems at school, how are we preparing them for adult life, asks Craig Barton.

Dan Meyer, a former maths teacher from the US currently studying at Stanford University, makes this point in a popular TED talk - and offers a solution: three-act maths.

In Act 1, pupils are given a "hook", usually a photo or video, that presents a real-life problem. In Pizza Doubler, for example, they are shown a picture of a slice of pizza alongside two coupons, one offering to double the sector angle of the pizza and one offering to double the radius. Act 1 concludes: "If you are feeling hungry, which coupon would you choose?" And that's it. The pupils are waiting for more, but this time they are not going to get it.

Act 2: information seeking. Only after some discussion is the image of the pizza menu revealed. The slice was from a 12-inch pizza cut into eight. When the problem is solved, Act 3 can begin: the sequel. Would the best coupon for the slice in question work for all slices? The possibilities for extension work are endless.

Search for "Dan Meyer three-act maths" on the internet. Problems such as Lucky Cow, 25 Billion Apps and Nanna's Chocolate Milk intrigued me as much as my learners.

What else?

Use Teach First's scheme of work to show why maths is important in everyday situations. bit.lyEveryDayMaths

Give graphs a real-life context in thecardinal 's lesson on racing tracks and school journeys. bit.lyRacingMaths.

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