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Since I started looking beyond the textbook for problem solving opportunities for my students, I am continually reminded how much I used to over teach and over model. My traditional daily class plan had been: Review homework, new lesson, guided practice, homework. Repeat. Quiz. I know that I had been leading them too much because now that I am giving them richer tasks, I am surprised by how difficult they find some of them. Fourteen years in the classroom and my judgement of the degree of challenge in a problem still needs calibrating.

For example, recently we did the task Viewmongus from Mathalicious to explore applications of Pythagorean theorem in Geometry. Given the diagonal length and the aspect ratio, calculate the dimensions of the TV. I looked at the materials before class and judged it a 10 minute problem. I budgeted 15 and reasoned that they could blog it for homework.

I was surprised (and happy) to see my students struggling to use the 16:9 ratio to find the dimensions of the TV. The struggle resulted in kids debating and teaching each other and the eventual aha moment.

As previously mentioned, I am reading Make it Stick at the moment (145 pages in, 100 left) and already it is influencing my teaching for the better. I was late to learning about PrBL and 3 Act Lessons, but when I started embracing them, I immediately valued them because they engaged my students. Class was more fun. Reading my book now, I am getting confirmation, research supported, that among other things, giving students tasks before they have learned the concepts will not only make class more engaging, it will lead to greater retention.
"When learning is harder; it's stronger and lasts longer."
A benefit of Viewmongus being harder than I thought, is they will remember the experience.

Students finished Viewmongus the next class and then summarized the experience on their blogs (on a side note, I will briefly mention how the Make it Stick authors also encourage reflection as a means to increase retention; blogging FTW). I gave them this simple prompt. I asked them to pick which TV was a better deal, hoping that they would base their choice on cost per square inch. Hoping...

Check out a few of their responses: