Nutting things out and intellectual play

This week’s #EduRead is the topic Constructive Struggle from the article Faster Isn’t Smarter. Author Cathy Seeley states students should be challenged with more complex problems. I agree. End of post.

What spin can I offer on this article? For one, I wish James Tanton was Cathy Seeley’s editor. He’d ditch the title and rename it, “Nutting Things Out.” His word choice speaks volumes about his approach to math. While I imagine the two would both vote for more math complexity, the Seeley read is a tad highbrow and offers no concrete suggestions on infusing more complexity. I’m a fan of Tanton. His playfulness and enthusiasm are infectious. Watch one of his videos and you’ll get a google of ideas on nutting your way through things…


as well as engaging in intellectual play.


In addition to the problems posed in Tanton’s videos and books, Dan Meyer and Michael Pershan recently discussed less scaffolding as a means to make problems more complex. Yet another alternative is Marian Small’s book More Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Secondary Mathematics Instruction which offers Open Questions and Parallel Tasks.

Suggestion 1: Open Questions

A number pattern includes both -3 and -13  as terms. What might be the general term of the pattern?

Suggestion 2: Parallel Tasks–students are presented a task and can choose one of two options

Can  -3087 be in the pattern described by the given pattern rule? How do you know?

  • Option 1: The pattern rule is: Start at 9. Keep subtracting 3.
  • Option 2: The term value is 4 times the term number +3

So now you have more resources for Constructive Struggle. I mean nutting things out and intellectual play.