After viewing Dan Meyer's TED talk, I was inspired to learn more about his 3 Act Tasks and what they would look like in the classroom. In this video, Dan models a 3 Act Task called "Pyramid of Pennies". Below I recap the goals of each act and how they can be delivered in the classroom for maximum engagement and access.

Act 1 introduces the central conflict of the story clearly and visually, using as few words as possible. This is usually done with a short, perplexing video or photo that provokes questions and curiosity. The idea of act one is to leave no one out. The mathematical and language demands should be very low at this stage in the show. For example, after students watch the video (i.e. time-lapsed video of a huge penny pyramid construction), they are asked to pose a question and share their question with a partner. Then they are asked to take three guesses: guess a correct answer, an answer they know is too high and an answer they know is too low. With this technique, no one is stuck saying “I don’t know where to start”. Students typically spend a lot of time answering questions; here, they get to pose their own (at the same time this also creates a community in the classroom around shared curiosity). The questions are shared with the classes and posted for all to see. End Act One.

In Act Two, the protagonist (the student) overcomes obstacles, decides on what resources are needed, and develops new tools. Dan describes this as ‘the guts of modeling’ because students are tackling the question, “what is important here and how would I get it?” In this act, the teacher poses the question: what information do you need from me? The students collaborate and come up with questions they have and resources they need. In this act, students attend to precision as well. For example, when students ask Dan for information, he presses them for units and to clarify exactly what they’re after. Vocabulary is created and defined as a class. The students also look to the primary sources for answers and make predictions first. For example, when they ask “how many pennies are in each stack?”, instead of just answering them, Dan directs their attention back to the raw data – this mirrors problem solving in real life. He also asks for guesses first…because they “are cheap and easy and motivating for a lot of students”. Lastly, after this inquiry and discussion, new mathematical concepts can be introduced (ex: sum notation and formula); the motivation for learning the skill has been set.

In Act Three, the conflict is resolved and the sequel (extension) is set up. Students now have everything they need and begin calculating to solve. The instructor should have a few sequel questions prepared to challenge the students who finish quickly thereby freeing up teacher time to help those in need. With regard to revealing the answer, the students were successfully motivated in act one, so the payoff in the act three needs to meet their expectations. This should be another fantastic visual component to show the students the answer they produced. Kind of like a grand finale, showing the answer validates all the hard work and ‘messiness’ in mathematical modeling. With the solution image presented, the class can go through all the questions they posed initially with satisfaction. Cross check the numbers they considered too high and too low; was their answer in the range? Don’t forget to see who had the closest guess!

Act 1 introduces the central conflict of the story clearly and visually, using as few words as possible. This is usually done with a short, perplexing video or photo that provokes questions and curiosity. The idea of act one is to leave no one out. The mathematical and language demands should be very low at this stage in the show. For example, after students watch the video (i.e. time-lapsed video of a huge penny pyramid construction), they are asked to pose a question and share their question with a partner. Then they are asked to take three guesses: guess a correct answer, an answer they know is too high and an answer they know is too low. With this technique, no one is stuck saying “I don’t know where to start”. Students typically spend a lot of time answering questions; here, they get to pose their own (at the same time this also creates a community in the classroom around shared curiosity). The questions are shared with the classes and posted for all to see. End Act One.

In Act Two, the protagonist (the student) overcomes obstacles, decides on what resources are needed, and develops new tools. Dan describes this as ‘the guts of modeling’ because students are tackling the question, “what is important here and how would I get it?” In this act, the teacher poses the question: what information do you need from me? The students collaborate and come up with questions they have and resources they need. In this act, students attend to precision as well. For example, when students ask Dan for information, he presses them for units and to clarify exactly what they’re after. Vocabulary is created and defined as a class. The students also look to the primary sources for answers and make predictions first. For example, when they ask “how many pennies are in each stack?”, instead of just answering them, Dan directs their attention back to the raw data – this mirrors problem solving in real life. He also asks for guesses first…because they “are cheap and easy and motivating for a lot of students”. Lastly, after this inquiry and discussion, new mathematical concepts can be introduced (ex: sum notation and formula); the motivation for learning the skill has been set.

In Act Three, the conflict is resolved and the sequel (extension) is set up. Students now have everything they need and begin calculating to solve. The instructor should have a few sequel questions prepared to challenge the students who finish quickly thereby freeing up teacher time to help those in need. With regard to revealing the answer, the students were successfully motivated in act one, so the payoff in the act three needs to meet their expectations. This should be another fantastic visual component to show the students the answer they produced. Kind of like a grand finale, showing the answer validates all the hard work and ‘messiness’ in mathematical modeling. With the solution image presented, the class can go through all the questions they posed initially with satisfaction. Cross check the numbers they considered too high and too low; was their answer in the range? Don’t forget to see who had the closest guess!