[Three Act Physics] Introduction

I read a lot of teaching blogs.  There are just so many good ideas out there, and they inspire me to constantly improve the way that I teach.  Today I want to focus on one particular teaching method, the Three Act Method, which is the product of Dan Meyer and his awesome math colleagues.  If you didn’t click the link, you should do it now; it will be well worth your time.  Seriously, I’ll wait…

Okay, are you back?  To summarize, the basic idea of the Three Act Method is to take a cue from the world of storytelling, which often uses the three-act structure as a model.  Stories are typically divided into three acts: The Setup (Act 1), The Confrontation (Act 2), and The Resolution (Act 3).  Applied to teaching, it could look something like this:

Act 1: Here we introduce a conflict to spark curiosity.  This should be simple and concise while still clearly outlining the problem.  This act should lead to natural questions.

Act 2: Now that we know what the problem is — and we have a question — we need to figure out how to solve it.  Here we provide the necessary information and resources to begin calculations using principles and prior knowledge.

Act 3: Finally, we can resolve our conflict and figure out if our predictions and calculations were correct!

Sequel: We may have answered our main question, and probably some others along the way, but what else can this situation relate to?  What if we introduce something new or take something away?  How does a slight change affect the outcome?  Here we can continue to make connections to how what we learn applies to our lives every day!

My favorite part of the Three Act Method is how it can spark curiosity, even with topics and situations that people normally might not care about.  See these if you want some examples.  Dan Meyer and his colleagues have done a wonderful job coming up with their own library of Three Act Math tasks, and I wanted to join in on the fun.  So this summer I started working with an undergrad student, Michael Russo, to develop a series of Three Act Physics tasks.

So without further ado, I would like to introduce Three Act Physics.  It is still a work in progress, so please leave comments.  Any feedback you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

(By the way, I recently discovered that I am not the only person interested in Three Act Physics.  Neil Atkin has started his own series of videos, so check him out as well.)


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