When Dan Meyer launched his 101qs.com website in March, he invited people to upload first acts. I interpret Dan’s definition of first acts as compelling videos or photos that lead to perplexing mathematical questions. The idea of 101qs.com is for people to upload their first acts, and the other users will post questions if they are perplexed. If they are not perplexed, they skip it and move on. Each first act ends up with a perplexity score.
I spent a lot of time on the site in the past week, and have now seen every single first act that has been posted. I entered my question for those that perplexed me. I skipped those that didn’t. After all that work, I have some observations and questions.
- What perplexes me doesn’t necessarily perplex you. This is my lowest scoring one. It’s busy. It’s text heavy. It’s cumbersome. And I’m totally hooked. I really want to check this guy’s math. Dud.
- On 101qs.com, there are numerous similar examples of things that people found perplexing enough to upload, only to discover that the community of reviewers doesn’t agree. I wonder if perplexity relies at all on the presentation. I’m sure Dan would prefer that these things stand on their own; that the photo or video need no explanation or prompting. I am confident, though, that I could sell my dud in #1 to a group of students and get them perplexed. I am confident that Statler Hilton could sell this one to a group of kids with the right presentation.
- Videos need to hook me fast. I have a short attention span that way. Apparently other people feel the same. This one is brilliant. Why it doesn’t have a higher perplexity score is befuddling me.
- If I can’t tell what I’m looking at in the photo, I’m not perplexed. I’m confused. I wonder what the uploader wanted me to notice. That’s not perplexity. That’s teacher pleasing.
- Simple is good. This one fascinates me.
- Where does this go from here? Do we sort by course or topic related to the mathematics we anticipate students doing in Act II? Do we link them to Act II and Act III resources? What’s next, Mr. Meyer?
- How do students react to these? Do they find the same ones perplexing that their teachers do? Some of the ones I have used with great success with students are not receiving the highest perplexity scores on 101qs. This one and this one have gone over very well in the classrooms in which I have tried them. Only one of them lives in the current top 10 on the site.
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I know. If we have to sell it, it’s probably not perplexing enough.