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How math is being taught has to change. Middle school math teachers are too reliant on the textbook. This has two problems. The first is it does not effectively engage the students. The second is that it does not create higher level problem solvers.
I will not go into depth on the previous two points. This video by Dan Meyer speaks beautifully to my stance.
While teaching math I create bare bones problems for the students to solve. They have to figure out the information they need to solve the problem. This helps students understand the difference between important information, and irrelevant information. This is all done through class discussions. I have students participating in math discussions that would normally shut down during math instruction.
The current unit the students are studying is Percents, Ratio, and Rates. We are currently in the percent section. In the percent section, students are store-owners that need to calculate the selling price of coats based on the cost to them. The students need to find the cost of the coats, and the price they can charge for the coats. They will offer more information, but you need to help them filter out unneeded data.
Once they understand the information they need, the students need to brainstorm ways of finding the data; Market surveys, asking other business owners, guessing, going into other stores, and so on. At this point, I fill in the blanks for the students.
The cost of the coat is $80.
Based on market research, you can charge customers up to 230% of cost.
From here, the students do the simple calculations of Price=(80)(2.3)
This method of teaching problem solving engages much more of the students' mind than simply giving the required pieces of information, and showing them the steps. This method creates higher level problem solvers.
The next post will highlight the "Hockey Pool" assignment for this unit.