A review of Central Park by Dan Meyer, Chris Danielson, and Desmos

This afternoon Dan Meyer announced a new project that he and several of his colleagues put together:

A direct link to the project on the Desmos site is here: Central Park on Desmos

By chance I had some unexpected free time this afternoon, so I played around with it a little. Not with the idea of thinking critically about it, but rather just to see what it was. At the end I wasn’t sure what to think and thought I’d give it a go with the boys when I got home. They enjoyed it.

Though the videos are long, if you are interested in seeing kids reacting to this project while working through it (and struggling a little with the directions), they are probably worthwhile. The short story – both boys were engaged all the way through (~15 min for my 10 year old and 27 min for my 8 year old). My older son found the estimating hard, but did not really struggle with the math, though not all of his answers were correct. His reflections at the end were not really math related.

My younger son did struggle with the math a little bit, but stayed with it and I think learned a little bit about variables by the end. His reflections were about the math, which was good.

I’ll admit to not generally being a fan of this type of computer based lesson. If there was a way to measure the tendency of someone to like lessons such as this one, I’d guess that 80 out of 100 people in math would like them more than me. That said, though my own reaction was lukewarm, my kids did like it and after seeing them work through it, I would happily use it with other kids.

Here is my 10 year old working through it. Variables are not new to him, so that part of the lesson (which, I think, is supposed to be the main part) is not difficult for him. He does struggle a little in the beginning with the estimates, and I was happy to watch that struggle. In retrospect, I wish I’d shot this movie a bit more zoomed in on the computer screen.

and his reflections (about 1 min):

Here is my 8 year old working through it. Variables are also not new to him, but he’s obviously not spent as much time working with them as his older brother has. He didn’t seem to have as much difficulty with the estimation as I was expecting, but understanding some of the more math-related questions was difficult for him. By the end, though, he did seem to get how to use the variables. It was nice to see him stay with the lesson and to get something out of it. Though this video is long (~30 min), if you are a fan of talking math with your kids, there’s some pretty good “kid talking about math” in this video.

and his reflection on the project (about 1 min):

I was impressed that this lesson could keep my younger son engaged for nearly half an hour, and even more impressed that at the end the things he found exciting about it was the math. For that reason alone, I’d be happy to use this lesson with other kids. My older son’s reaction leaves me a little worried that students who are not struggling to understand variables will not get as much out of this lesson. The creators of the lesson will probably be surprised to hear what his favorite part of the lesson was, but I’ll let you see that for yourself in his reflections.