Tuesday, October 26, 2010


WCYDWT is an acronym for 'What can you do with this?'. It's a teaching strategy I stole from Dan Meyer that brings interesting real world math problems into the classroom. Generally these problems begin with a visual prompt, either a video or image, and you ask the class, 'What can you do with this?'. Ideally the class forms a math-related question, determines what information it needs to answer that question, and does the math to answer the question all on their own - with minimal prodding from the teacher. Today, I showed them the reverse side of an audio CD and shaded in the area to the burn line to make it a little easier to see. It looked something like this:

I was hoping to prompt the question, "How much space is used up on this CD?", which we could easily estimate using ratios and the knowledge that a standard CD holds 80 minutes of audio. Instead, this question was not immediately apparent, and many students seemed disinterested in figuring out the problem. This disinterest led to about 10 minutes of discussion in which I had to spoon-feed them all of the steps, the justification for the steps, and then repeat my explanation because many students didn't care to listen. Here are my takeaways from this experience:

1. Sometimes you have a lesson that is designed for success, but how you implement your lesson is just as important, or more important, than what you have planned. Even a genius lesson plan can go to waste if it is not wielded correctly.

2. Silence from the class does not always imply that the teacher needs to step in and save the day. Because I had a particular direction that I wanted the lesson to go in, I became quite antsy to interject every time there was a brief moment of silence. It's difficult to let the silence simmer, but I think often it is necessary and allows the students to take ownership of their education. Hopefully next time an extended and awkward silence can be an opportunity for the lesson, not a speed bump. 

3. You cannot always anticipate what the students will enjoy and what they will not. Last week I did a WCYDWT (again, that I stole from Dan Meyer) using a movie clip from 'The Book of Eli' which was a big hit. It didn't necessarily go as planned and the clip didn't prompt the question I was hoping for, but I'm pretty sure I overheard some student say, "this is fun", while we were doing the math, and those aren't exactly words that are commonly overheard in remedial algebra classes...


  1. Great post, Amulya. I really like the WCYDWT approach because too often, I hear the comment 'This is all useless stuff that you are never going to need in your life!'. Such thoughts only serve to dampen the spirit of learning. And I think WCYDWT can come to the rescuet. I wish my teachers taught me this way.

  2. Amu, in addition to yours I'll have to follow Dan Meyer posts now!
    Its GREAT you are tying new techniques and also learning from the experience.
    I'm an average Joe and to me WCYDWT may not be exciting to begin with, well I'm not trained to think the way in a typical class room setting, but I will definitely warm up to it as things become apparent with practical aspects!
    So yes! Think and do different!