Making Real World Math Problems – GECDSB Math PD Day Session

In this following post, Greater Essex County District School Board Math Teachers will find resources to support the GECDSB Math Subject Specific Professional Development resources from the session, Making Real World Math Problems.

TED Talks – Dan Meyer: Math Class Needs a Makeover

In the video below, Dan Meyer explains what is wrong with traditional math instruction in our schools and what we can do about it.

Engaging Through a 3 Act Math Story

Dan Meyer has created a way to make problem solving both engaging and rewarding for the students. He calls this the 3 Acts of a Mathematical Story.

Dan Meyer's Three-Act Math Tasks

Click Here to See Dan Meyer’s Three-Act Math Tasks and other Real World Math Problems

Tried and Tested Three-Act Math Tasks

I’d be lying if I said I’ve used every one of Dan Meyer’s Three-Act Math Tasks, but I have used some and I am always looking to try new ones or even try to create my own Real World Math Problems to add to the great resources he’s already created.

Here are a few of the Three-Act Math Tasks I’ve tried in my own classroom or while co-teaching in other GECDSB Teacher Classrooms:

Tried and Tested Dan Meyer Three-Act Math Tasks

Pyramid of Pennies

Dan Meyer's Pyramid of Pennies Three-Act Math TaskThe Pyramid of Pennies problem begs for students to solve the obvious question: How Many Pennies Are In The Pyramid?.

Additional sequel questions that can be used such as:

  • How much does the pyramid weigh?
  • How big does the room have to be to fit the pyramid?
  • How big would the pyramid be if you had $1 M in pennies?

Taco Cart

Dan Meyer's Taco Cart Three-Act Math TaskThe Taco Cart problem asks students to determine who will get to the taco cart first when one friend walks the shorter distance in the sand, while the friend takes a longer route to get to the sidewalk for more speed.

Skills Used:

  • Right Angle Triangles
  • Pythagorean’s Theorem

Sugar Packets

Dan Meyer's Sugar Packets Three-Act Math TaskThe Sugar Packets problem asks students to fill-in the blanks from a real video that compares eating a large number of sugar packets to drinking a 20 oz. bottle of Coca-Cola. Students wonder how many packets of sugar are in a 20oz. Coca-Cola?

Skills Used:

  • Proportional Reasoning

Print Job

Dan Meyer's Print Job Three-Act Math TaskThe Print Job shows the first few pages of a print job as well as the total number of pages in the stack. Students wonder how long will the print job take?

Skills Used:

  • Linear Relationships
  • Graphing
  • Trial and Error

Bucky the Badger

Dan Meyer's Bucky the Badger Three-Act Math TaskBucky the Badger is the Mascot for the University of Wisconsin and does push-ups during each Badger Football scoring play. How many push-ups will Bucky do?

Skills Used:

  • Trial and Error
  • Patterning

Create Your Own Real World Math Problems

Creating your own real world math problems doesn’t have to be complex or overwhelming. A simple smartphone or tablet can do the recording for you and let the video ask the question. I encourage you to give it a shot with any idea!

A Couple Attempts at Creating Real World Math Problems

The Detention Buy-Out

Kyle Pearce The Detention Buy-Out Real World Math ProblemThe Tecumseh Vista Academy Administration offer TVA students options to buy-out of their detentions. Which buy-out option is best?.

Skills Used:

  • Linear Equations
  • Graphing
  • Table of Values
  • Trial and Error

Real World Percentages

Kyle Pearce's Real World Percentage ProblemsThe Real World Percentages problem asks students to Estimate then Calculate the Cost of Clothes from Mr. Pearce’s recent shopping trip.

Skills Used:

  • Number Sense – Percentages/Fractions

Real World Trigonometry

Kyle Pearce's Real World Trigonometry Math ProblemThe Real World Trigonometry problem asks students to estimate then calculate the height of Dylan as well as a support pole in the main Tecumseh Vista Academy Hallway.

Skills Used:

  • Estimating
  • Primary Trigonometric Ratios

Share Your Engaging Math Problems Below!

I’d love to see some of your engaging math problems whether there is photos/video included or not. Let’s share some of the great resources that are already out there for us to utilize in our classrooms!


Download our Complete Guide to successfully implementing our Make Math Moments 3-Part Framework in your math class!
Make Math Moments 3-Part Framework Guidebook

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About Kyle Pearce

I’m Kyle Pearce and I am a former high school math teacher. I’m now the K-12 Mathematics Consultant with the Greater Essex County District School Board, where I uncover creative ways to spark curiosity and fuel sense making in mathematics. Read more.

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