Making Math Real

Select Timezone:

For parents with children in middle & high school, this Working Group offers a way for parents to change their approach to math instruction, making it more real, relevant, and engaging to students. Rather than using the traditional approach of abstract worksheets, rules, and drills, this Working Group guides parents how to have students explore real problems, challenges, and projects that force them to use math in a meaningful way, ideally for topics they care about. The ultimate goal is to ensure you never hear your children utter the phrase “I hate math” again!  

Length & Duration: 60-minute live, virtual meetings once a week for 4 weeks

* Please be advised that this Working Group models the kind of experiential learning that makes math real for students. While that does not mean you will be doing lots of math yourself, it does mean that you will be learning by doing as you design, prototype, and improve one or more projects for your student(s). This includes ~1 hour of "homework" between live meeting sessions.

Making Math Real

Why is it that math is often the most hated subject in school? I’m convinced that it has less to do with the difficulty of the material and more to do with the archaic approach in which it is taught. This workshop will introduce you to an alternative way to approach and support math instruction - one that focuses more on having students solve real problems than doing abstract problem sets on worksheets. By introducing scenarios, challenges, problems, and projects up front - sometimes even without numbers - students find ways to engage in deep problem solving techniques that, when designed with intention, force them to confront mathematical concepts that now have relevance and meaning (as opposed to the typical approach that leads to the inevitable question, “when will I ever use this?”).

Throughout the Working Group, parents will learn how to present students with problems that challenge and stretch their learning, but with scaffolded, just-in-time support to construct greater meaning and relevance in their math ability and depth of knowledge. Through this process, students become co-designers of their learning and in the process, grow their confidence and are better able to use mathematical thinking and principles to solve increasingly complex problems that they care about.

Please note that this approach doesn’t mean that math is all of a sudden easy or that students will not struggle. They will. But unlike struggling to answer 50 generic similar problems on a worksheet, students engage in a productive struggle that is relevant to something that has meaning to them. This approach is also intentionally messy, non-linear (pun intended), and very individualized for students, but it is also significantly more meaningful to you and the students because they not only gain confidence in their math abilities, but also their abilities to solve real problems - a skill they will use for a lifetime.



Ben Owens

Ben Owens

Ben Owens is a mechanical engineer who spent a career in manufacturing and R&D locations across the US before becoming a public school teacher in rural Appalachia.  After co-authoring the book “Open Up, Education!” in 2018, Ben founded the nonprofit, Open Way Learning, and now helps  create the cultural conditions for localized, learner-centered innovation in schools, homes and communities. Ben was the 2017 Bridging the Gap Distinguished Teacher in STEM Education.