By Connie Rivera

This post is the final part of a 5-post series based on the work of Dan Meyer, well-known for his use of technology to help people develop a conceptual curiosity for math. His work is relevant for traditional students, adult students, and teachers. The first four posts in this series are Approaching Technology with a Mission in MindFinding and Organizing Inspirational SourcesCapturing Perplexity, and Sharing Perplexity

We’ve shared a perplexing idea with our students. They’ve got a ‘bee in their bonnet’ that’s needling them to learn more – to find out the answer. When students are ready to resolve this perplexing curiosity we’ve shared, what tools do we have for them? Math is a tool we use to help students resolve perplexing questions. Let’s look at some technological tools to support the math students need.

Tools for Students:

  • Virtual Manipulatives – National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM) has a wide selection of interactive manipulatives. I’ve used Rectangle Multiplication with my students in connecting area to multiplication. There are area representation manipulatives for Division and Multiplication with Integers as well.
  • Excel – Excel is a useful tool for students to make use of data to resolve a complex question.
  • Thinking Blocks – is available as an app and on the internet. Thinking Blocks offers a way for students to model word problems with whole number operations, fractions, and ratio and proportion.
  • GeoGebra – is an advanced tool. GeoGebra is an amazing free math software that brings together algebra, geometry, graphing, etc. You can watch a short tutorial to get you started.


Lastly, here are some resources that offer perplexing questions for students to resolve:

  • Problems of the Month by Inside Mathematics – these themed, leveled tasks were designed to be used by an entire school district at every level. I have used them with my classes. Choose one by level to correspond to your next instructional topic.
  • Figure This by NCTM – offers a variety of challenging, individual problems at CCR Levels C and D. You can download them or use them with the interactive hints feature on the website.
  • Mathalicious – is a high-quality source for lessons that use intriguing, real-life examples of math. You can search by level or by standard.
  • Three Acts – spreadsheet is a summary of Dan Meyer’s activities for class. You can see the theme, grade level, standard, and suggested perplexing question as well as link to the resources for the activity through this spreadsheet. Getting started using Three Acts can be daunting, so watch for a future blog entry with suggestions.

Problems of the Month screen shot

Figure This screen shot

Mathalicious screen shot

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find one new perplexing question and share it with your class. Guide your students through resolving perplexity this week.


Connie Rivera is a teacher of adult basic skills and high school equivalency preparation. She is also a math consultant, providing math strategies and support to programs implementing the College and Career Readiness (CCR) Standards for Adult Education. Connie is currently the President Elect of the Adult Numeracy Network (ANN), the adult affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

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