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WCYDWT (What Can You Do With This)

December 22, 2010

“What Can You Do With This?” (WCYDWT) is a concept promoted by math teacher Dan Meyer. The 11-minute video below gives you an introduction.

Meyer talks about TV producer David Milch, who believes that watching too many sitcoms has shaped our brains to expect simple problems. If things don’t wrap up in 22 minutes plus three commercial breaks we experience “impatience with irresolution.”

Meyer believes math textbooks too often take a compelling question and pave a smooth, straight path to the answer. Then, after students step over the small cracks in the way, we congratulate them. He argues we need to promote patient problem-solving. For example, we can involve students in formulating a problem, rather than simply giving it to them. Meyer demonstrates how he takes the problems in a textbook and re-purposes them.

For Meyer, digital images and video are key components to introducing real-world problems. One of the examples of WCYDWT on Dan’s blog – Car Talk – uses images to help students conceptualize a situation. In the overview you saw students watching a video of a container filling up, rather than reading about it in a word problem. These media are not hard to create, but you can also go to Flickr, YouTube and other websites.

All of that is fine for teaching math and other STEM fields — what about the humanities? Well, Dave Stacey, who exploring the idea in teaching history, offers this example. Others are thinking about applications in teaching English (Todd Seal and  . What can YOU do with this?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2010 11:32 am

    Great talk. Thanks for sharing this. I love this “real world,” challenge-based approach, but where do the numbers come in? As important as it is to have students decide which dimensions of a container are relevant to the question of determining how long it takes to fill that container with water, at some point it helps to actually put some numbers to those dimensions. I’m guessing Dan Meyer provides those measurements along the way, but I wish he had addressed how he does that.

    Also, the five “viruses” he identifies that students come “pre-loaded” with are right on target! I find myself fighting against these perceptions all the time.

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