"There is no one way"

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Lesson

I posted a new lesson on my Web site: Comparing Cell Phone Plans.  I wrote the lesson as part of a project I worked on with Amanda Cangelosi, an ex-colleague and currently a prof at the University of Utah. We were auditioning for a new online math lessons Web site. We did not make the cut, but it was a worthwhile project, as it helped me clarify my thinking about one way to design a good activity. Here are some of the features of this lesson that I like.
  1. It is an investigation of a question that is reasonably easy to state and understand, but takes a bit of work to unravel.
  2. The lesson is structured in the three-act format recommended by Dan Meyer. (See my previous post on this topic.)
  3. The exploration is preceded by an introduction which gives students a chance to formulate their own questions and discuss what information will be needed to answer them.
  4. One size does not fit all: while the student worksheet is short, teacher notes provide ideas for several levels of hintage, which can be deployed appropriately, depending on the specific situation in a given classroom, or with a given small group or individual student.
  5. While it is a "real world"-type question, it is engineered (all right: contrived) to generate maximum educational payoff.
  6. It is possible for a broad range of students to start working on the lesson, which makes the subsequent generalization accessible to a larger group than starting with a directly algebraic approach.
  7. The problem touches on multiple core topics in algebra, and is best addressed by using multiple representations.
  8. The lesson does not assume a particular technological tool, but it can be enhanced by technology in multiple complementary ways. We provided some "tech support" for some of those.
  9. The lesson can be followed by a more genuine real world question: researching and comparing real cell phone plans.
I'd love your feedback on this!



  1. Hi Henri,

    I've done something very similar with my students, but it took us about a month to unravel the mathematics we ended up exploring as a result of the cell phone project. I've actually not done a write up about it before, but basically we started with the problem: Find a decent cell phone plan for Mr. Wees (at the time I didn't have a cell phone plan) and we explored how to find cell phone plans (easy data to find online, in digestible forms for kids), and then compare them.

    It was a lot of fun for me, and I'm pretty sure the students enjoyed it.


  2. Great! What grade were your students?