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Three Act Math Tasks

Number of team members participating: 8 students

Length of competition: 1 hour (Please note: Students will be introduced to the Three Act Math Tasks at the November competition and will NOT need to prepare beforehand.)

Materials Needed for Competition at Drexel:

  • USB drive with 3 video clips saved on it (each 30 - 60 seconds in length)

Materials Needed at School Prior to Competition:

  1. video recording device (smartphone, iPod, tablet, digital camera, webcam)
  2. video editing software (iMovie, Movie Maker, Magisto)
  3. computer (unless editing video on smartphone, iPod, or tablet)
  4. USB drive

Prior to visiting Drexel for the Philadelphia EMC in January, March and June, students should create and edit three video clips that are each approximately 30 seconds to 1 1⁄2 minutes in length. Students will learn to create the videos during the first competition in November and do not need to begin to create a video until December.

The video clips should be modeled after “Three Act Math Tasks” created by Dan Meyer. The purpose of the Three Act Math Task is to pose real world problems and inspire others to generate solutions to the problem. The key to a successful Three Act Math Task is that the viewer should be able to apply creative solutions and that the task should be grounded in everyday experiences. In general, ideas should originate from and work should be done by students and not teachers, family members or mentors. Dan Meyer describes the three acts of a mathematical story on his blog: http://blog.mrmeyer.com/?p=10285. Each clip has a purpose:

  1. Clip 1: Set up a problem visually but provide little information about how to solve the problem. The viewer feel inspired to think about what information would be needed to solve the problem.
  2. Clip 2: Provide information for the viewer that might help solve the problem.
  3. Clip 3: Conclude with a solution to the problem.


An online resource to help students and teachers with Three Act Math Tasks is available on The Math Forum website at http://mathforum.org/workshops/mscoalition/september16.html.

In addition, a number of blogs are available online that provide descriptions and examples of Three Act Math Tasks. One example is here: http://www.thelandscapeoflearning.com/2011/12/my-three-act-math-problem.html

Common Core: Standards for Mathematical Practice

  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP4 Model with mathematics.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP5 Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP7 Look for and make use of structure.

Common Core: English Language Arts Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.

Rubric: three_act_task_rubric.pdf

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