Don’t be distracted, be engaged. Using technology in the maths classroom.

I was going to try and NOT make this entire post about Dan Meyer. But I just cleared through my list of “must read” blog posts and his had the biggest impact on me this week. So, expect there to be a lot of praise/worship/the-big-L for Dan in the scribblings that follow. (And the many posts that follow too, let’s be honest…)

If we want to start looking at how technology can authentically embed technology in a maths classroom then Dan’s blog is certainly a great place to start. Actually, it’s a recent post of his that I think is worth sharing. You will see it’s not all bells-and-whistles fancy, but it is effective, practical and authentic. Take a look:


Actually, the point that Dan is trying to make is that if we show that we need something then it becomes more meaningful and engaging. My reason for sharing it is that this simple concept that was so boring to teach (and boring to learn) has been enhanced with technology. Some might argue that on the SAMR scale of things we are still somewhere between Augmentation and Modification (I’d lean on the latter) but it’s progress from dots on a whiteboard.

Meyer has a bunch of great learning/teaching/lesson ideas that I’ve been using for a while now:

Three Act Math – This links to a google spreadsheet with more than 50 task ideas.

Will Dan’s shot hit the hoop? Image and Lesson from

Desman – I love this and wrote about it here

A desman created by one of my students

101 Questions – A growing bank of perplexing images aimed to get your students thinking and asking questions

Image from
What is the first question that comes to mind?

I had a great time with some Function Carnivals in class today and I will add these Graphing Stories to my list of things to explore… Yes, clearly a fan of Dan, I am.

But each and every single one of these lessons has helped to create learning experiences that are differentiated, open-ended, challenging, accessible AND engaging. So the use of carefully chosen images, or thoughtfully created videos or professionally created websites can bring authentic and effective use of technology into the maths classroom. It’s also worth noting that while Meyer might get the ball rolling on these tasks there is a lot of crowd sourcing when it comes to making improvements and adding resources. Follow him on twitter. Just do it.

Our jobs are definitely evolving and it is clear that it is our responsibility to expose our students to technology. But it is far from a burden, it is a bonus and often my life saver!

5 comments to “Don’t be distracted, be engaged. Using technology in the maths classroom.”
5 comments to “Don’t be distracted, be engaged. Using technology in the maths classroom.”
  1. Ange, your post reminded me of the power of art and artifacts to trigger thinking. In Making Thinking Visible (, Harvard researchers came up with an “Artful Thinking Palette” identifying the different types of thinking that learners should be engaging in:
    “observing and describing”
    “comparing and connecting”
    “finding complexity”
    “exploring viewpoints”
    “questioning and investigating”

    Perhaps, you have heard of the book. If you haven’t, I would highly recommend it. The thinking routines scaffold, clarify and push critical engagement. They are easy to implement and they are effective across grade and subject level.

    Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment Andrea. You are so right, my post is really about how I use technology to make the learning visible. This is really something that I want to be my focus for the rest of this school year. It is language that I have been familiar with for a while but I have never really taken the time to read about the work done by the Harvard research team – perhaps I have found my next read?

      I want to know more about the Artful Thinking Palette as I am sure that I can use these words to help guide my planning and blogging (mine and my students).

  2. Ange

    Technology is an amazing tool to make math engaging with real life problems. I’ve seen a few of Dan Meyer’s videos too. I wish math was taught that way when I was young. Math wasn’t about solving problems. It was about jumping through the hoops in order to get a letter grade. Now that I don’t have to study math, I marvel at how amazing the world is because of the patterns we see in math (and a lot of other subject areas!). Technology can help the students see the patterns using authentic real life examples.


    • Welcome to my blog Vivian!

      It is such an unfortunately common scenario that adults had bad experiences in their math classrooms. I like to keep it in the back of mind as a motivation to work harder to reach each and every one of my kids. Some of my kids will love anything and everything but many are already struggling maths learner and they need to see that the task is within their reach and that they are capable of succeeding. These kinds of tasks help me differentiate and challenge all of my students.

  3. Ah, good ol’ Dan Meyer. I once tried to get him to apply for a position at my previous school, before he got bigger than Ben Hur… Oh, what coulda been! 🙂

    I think what’s the most important takeaway for me from Dan’s method is that the thoughtful and purposeful use of technology can be transformative. Many times teachers just think that putting a blinking box in front of the students will lead to something amazing, but it’s up to us as teachers to give students that conducive learning environment. No blinking box will ever do that by itself…

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