A lot of talk on the math-ed-web-o-sphere has focused on effective techniques for engaging students in solving problems (e.g. Dan Meyer’s 3 Acts) and especially on perfecting the hook: the juicy image, movie, story, question, etc. that gets students wondering and conjecturing.
In the part of my job in which I am a math coach, we’ve been having a lot of conversations about structuring the curriculum to make big ideas and connections more prominent. One hypothesis is that students in “math class mode” focus on solving this problem and that other problem and never “how do these problems fit together and help me learn about interesting stuff?”
If that’s the case, a good hook for a unit can help students learn in service of a question that’s important to them, which is a powerful and sticky and organized kind of learning. But how do you plan for that? What does it look like?
Another way to ask that is, “if a good question is Act 1, and solving it is Acts 1 – 3, what Acts might be the rest of the unit? How do they relate to Acts 1 – 3?”
Leaving aside completely for now the challenge of picking good questions, I tried to make a lesson planning framework that would help me and the teachers I work with use the good questions we come up with to make coherent unit plans that hang together around an interesting (dare we say “essential”) question.
Here’s a blank-ish version and a sample version having to do with statistics. The sample is pretty long because I used the same question to do three parts of an entire month+ long unit on statistics (displaying data, measures of center, and measures of spread).