Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Making Real World Problems A Reality

Authentic Learning? Real World Problems?  How can we make this become an everyday reality in our classrooms?  Recently I was visiting with a colleague about the importance of relating concepts to real world experiences.  He told me a story that paints a vivid picture of the mathematicians we are producing in many of our classrooms.
A friend of mine and I were in the beginning stages of building a well house. My friend, age 30, asked me to begin measuring to create a square corner. I quickly grabbed a measuring tape and went to work. After only a few minutes, my friend came over to supervise my progress. "Do you know what you are doing?," he asked. "Yes, I'm simply using basic geometry", I answered. "You know.... A2 + B2 = C2. I measured and squared the sum of both sides resulting in the length of the hypotenuse." With a confused look, he replied, "That's not how you do it. In the construction world, we use the 3 4 5 Rule. You measure 3 feet from the corner in one direction and make a mark. You then measure 4 feet from the corner in the other direction and make a mark. Now, you simply measure the distance between your marks. If your corner is square, the distance will be 5 feet." With the same confused look, I replied, "That is exactly what I said.... the pythagorean theorem!" I went on to ask, "What if you were building something much smaller. Could you use the 3 4 5 method in inches?" Without hesitation, he quickly shook his head and said, "No. I'm pretty sure it only works in feet."

Many of our students fail to see the relationship between specific concepts that we teach in our classrooms and how it is used in the real world.  In the following video, Dan Myer does a fantastic job explaining how we can make authentic learning a reality.

1 comment:

  1. This will be a great resource for next year. Thank you so much for creating this blog:)