Over the past few weeks, I have immersed myself into learning more about 3 act math tasks. I have spent hours reading Robert Kaplinsky, Graham Fletcher, and others to develop my understanding of these tasks. I plan to write an extensive blog post sharing what I’ve learned and ways you can use these tasks, and why I love them so much. It would make much more sense for me to share that post before I share my first 3 act math task, but this lesson ties in perfectly with the Super Bowl, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to capitalize on a fun current event for students.
One of my favorite things about a 3 act math task is that you can adapt and modify as needed. For instance, if you don’t think your students would benefit from the decimals in this problem, you could have them round (be sure to let them determine where to round the number). As I share this lesson, I’ll give a brief overview of each act to give some general guidance.
A 3 Act Math Task is a whole group mathematics task consisting of 3 distinct parts: an engaging and perplexing Act One, an information and solution seeking Act Two, and a solution discussion Act Three.
3 Act Math Task: Act One
In Act One, I provide a visual to engage and hook students. Show students the image below for Act 1. This visual sparks curiosity and provokes questions. In this act students will fill out the notice and wonder sections of their recording sheet.
3 Act Math Task: Act Two
In the second act, have students share what additional information they need to solve the problem. Once students for the information, share the Act 2 image, which gives the cost of a single pack of M&Ms. Of course, there is a huge variety of sizes available for purchase, but I didn’t think my students were ready for that yet. After giving students the information they need, students should make an estimate for how many packs of M&Ms Mars would need to sell. Students will then work to solve the actual problem.
3 Act Math Task: Act Three
In the third act, reveal the solution to the problem. I couldn’t resist showing students the actual commercial, because it is pretty hilarious. Be sure to spend time discussing the strategies students used to solve the problem and which strategies were most efficient.
There are several different options for differentiation within the task. As I tried this out with various groups of students, I let one group use a calculator. You could have students round the decimal, or even have them find different combinations of types and sizes of M&M bags that would equal $5,000,000. Through this lesson, I saw where some students wanted to multiply $5,000,000 by $1.39. I also saw where I needed to spend more time modeling and helping students learn to explain their thinking, rather than telling me how to divide. Instead, I want to know why they chose to divide.
I’ve included the recording sheet I had my students use, and you can download that recording sheet here. I hope your students love this 3 act math task! To read more strategies for teaching upper elementary math, be sure to check out this post!