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Home arrow Mathematics arrow Modeling mathematical ideas: developing strategic competence in elementary and middle school


Today in our current digital age, students are described as “digital natives” meaning that they love and embrace technology. In fact, some of them would rather use video chat than use a phone to call their friends! With the advances in technology, there are excellent ways to capture everyday events that present themselves as mathematical

The meatball problem from

Figure 3.9 The meatball problem from

moments or math happenings. These math happenings can often be mathematical modeling tasks.

Several blogs offer teachers and students great launching points to develop their problem-posing, problem-translation, and problem-solving skills. One interesting blog is This website offers photographs and short video clips that are interesting to students. Students watch the video clip and pose mathematical questions. A fun video clip is from 101 qs and is called Meatballs by Dan Meyer. You are presented with a boiling pot with meatballs. In Act One, Dan Meyer asks, Will it overflow?

The follow-up questions include: How many meatballs will it take to overflow? What is a number of meatballs you know is too high? What is a number of meatballs you know is too low? In Act Two, he asks, what information would be useful to know here? Four pieces of data are provided: the height remaining in the pot; the diameter of some sample meatballs; the diameter of the pot; and the number of meatballs. Act Three provides the video and teacher materials. Besides the novelty of the video-based problem approach, the site encourages students to pose problems and solve problems based on the data provided. With exposure to sites like this, students can bring in their own photos and video clips that capture a math happening. In this way, we develop students’ awareness of mathematics to their world, math-to-self and math-to-math connections.

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