Science Practices in Math


My thinking this year has been stretched a lot, and I’m still trying to decide what was good thinking and what wasn’t.  One thing that is really sticking in my head is the thought of learning methods I experienced in Science- and I’m wondering why I don’t implement them in Math.  I’m not sure how your science classes went but here is the breakdown of mine:


This is very similar to Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Math, and perhaps one of the reasons I connect so well to that model.  Show me something cool like this that will set my brain on fire:

(and of course I wouldn’t show the whole video to begin with)

Now you have me, I’m totally hooked on what is going on in class.


Once again, just like the 3 Act model, ask me about what is going on.

  1. What do you notice?
  2. What do you wonder?
  3. Why do you think that is?

Kids are endless fonts of ideas and knowledge, let their thinking dominate the classroom, not yours.  I typically record every student’s response (yes, every one that is appropriate for school- excluding those that imply language, race, sex, etc.).  Like I have blogged about before, students will hit upon what your learning concept of the day is, why give it to them when they can supply it themselves?


After we had this great classroom discussion about what we saw, we learned about about it.  This is where formal instruction fits within the class.  This is where you implement your practice, whatever form it may take.  The secret here, everything was done in class.  This is NOT the time to assign homework, and if you run out of time that’s awesome!  It means you are sending students out the door with that itch in their brains about what just happened in class today.  Their brains will be kicking those ideas around all night, whether they know it or not.  Typically I see an increase in engagement and clarity of focus from students on the second day.

This is where normal instruction ends.  This is where the great story of Mathematics dies.  We practice, we know it, we show mastery of some degree.  We wait until the end of the week, month, semester or year to show that mastery on some formal assessment.  This is where we need to be like my science class and take it all one step farther…


Take what you just learned about and test it out or apply it.  This could be a different spin on the activity that introduced the topic, or another application of the mathematics all together.

Take Fawn’s Barbie Bungee.  It seems to do this right?  It does, to some degree.  In Act 3, we learn if our calculations are correct, the same with Barbie Bungee.  The thing is, we are still building upon the knowledge we created in that lesson, even though we are justifying our thinking, we aren’t building new knowledge.  What do I mean?  I typically ended Barbie Bungee with this:


This is my bungee jumper now, and there’s a lot more at stake with this one than our Barbies.  This one will create a huge mess in the room if I mess up.  I have never seen students so excited and purposeful about their calculations and mathematics than when I introduce the egg.

This whole process gives my students a whole new appreciation for this:


My newest mission: Don’t stop at practice, push students to reflect, rethink, reapply their mathematical knowledge for different experiences and scenarios.

2 thoughts on “Science Practices in Math

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