Like Power, Not Punishment

As a K-12 curriculum director, I read a lot of different blogs–kindergarten blogs, education blogs, leadership blogs, and various subject area blogs.  I love reading Dan Meyer’s blog, a former math teacher who has wonderful posts that challenge people to think about what real learning is and why we do what we do in any classroom, not just mathematics classrooms.

In his latest post regarding pictures found in textbooks that give only a pseudocontext for the math being presented, he makes the following statement regarding a picture and associated physics problem regarding total resultant momentum:

“…I am wondering if someone can put me in a position where knowing how to calculate resultant momentum would feel like power rather than punishment.”

Like power rather than punishment.  I love this phrase, because it’s exactly what we need to think about when designing learning activities for students.

Will this activity/problem set/worksheet/homework assignment/research project/anything we have students do empower students with something useful they’ll need for life, or will it feel like punishment because there’s no relevant context provided?

If the answer is “punishment,” then the next logical step we need to take is to transform that activity into something that empowers and equips students with skills they will actually need, and does so in a context they will actually encounter in their future world.



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