Math-reform advocate visits Bluffton High, urges wordy word problem reform

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 20, 2012 

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How often have you pondered a problem like this?

A hot air balloon flies at a speed of (n + 8) miles per hour.

At this rate, how long will it take to fly (n2 + 5n - 24) miles?

Those kinds of questions, Dan Meyer says, are leading kids to believe math is irrelevant to their lives.

Meyer is on a mission to change that.

He speaks internationally on the need to reform mathematics education, and thousands follow his blog and Twitter posts. On Friday, he spoke to about 20 educators and parents at Bluffton High School about what's broken in math instruction and how to fix it.

As Meyer showed examples of word problems in textbooks -- one suggested students could use equations to calculate the size of a right triangle to buy a bandana for their dog -- the audience frequently laughed.

Meyer said two things make him optimistic. States are adopting the Common Core State Standards, curricula in which students must use math to analyze realistic problems, understand them better and make decisions. South Carolina is adopting those standards, and they will eventually be implemented in Beaufort County schools, local educators say.

Meyer also is excited about digital textbooks, which could take students step-by-step through solutions, rather than overwhelming them with lengthy, complicated word problems in printed textbooks.

Several said after the presentation they agreed with Meyer.

Juli-Anna Warren, who says her 13-year-old daughter wishes math "was taken out of the curriculum," has tried some of Meyer's tips and suggestions at home with positive results.

Warren also believes digital textbooks would catch her four children's attention because they are always using their iPod Touch devices.

"It would help them to understand math and see how it affects their everyday life," she said.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content

  1. Mathalicious: sample math lessons designed for the real world
  2. VIDEO: Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover on TED.com
  3. Dan Meyer's website
  4. Dan Meyer's blog
  5. Dan Meyer's Twitter

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