Followers of #mathchat and #scichat may be wondering what this #anyqs hashtag is that people seem to be tweeting about. Dan Meyer’s at it again! For anyone who hasn’t heard of Dan (), here’s his much-viewed TEDxNYED talk. He started off WCYDWT and the #WCYDWT hashtag, which he vigorously tries to defend as a brand. That is an abbreviation of “What can you do with this?” – the prompting of “How much, how big, how long, how many…?” types of questions using a photograph or a video.
The #anyqs hashtag, which Dan launched on 5th May 2011, seems to me, at least, to be a refinement of the #WCYDWT idea. Dan’s follow-up post Dissents Of The Day: Danielson, Pickford, Scammell says:
The point of the #anyqs challenge is to evoke a perplexing situation so skillfully that the majority of your students will wonder the same question (whatever that is) and the rest of the class won’t find that question unnatural or uninteresting, even if it wasn’t the first question that struck them.
The ‘rules’ are much tighter than #WCYDWT – one picture or one video with a duration under 1 minute, viewers should respond with the first (mathematical) question that springs to mind. A few others have ‘jumped on the bandwagon’, I have set up my own pages to collect questions for myself, but this raises another question: “What do I do with all of the questions once I have collected them?”
It seems to me there are two main approaches you could take, once you have first tested the visual prompt outside your class:
- Look at all of the questions and explore which can be answered, maybe choosing one or two to explore first or allow students to work on one or two of their choice from the full list; or
- If there is too much disparity in the range of questions, then the visual prompt needs to be revised so that only one (or maybe two) question(s) screams out to be answered.
The first approach is probably a return to the confusion or flapping about, the “excessive cognitive load resulting from a unfocused problem space” Dan refers to in his response to a question about the difference between #WCYDWT and #anyqs (comment 14). I suspect, judging by the comments, advice and friendly prods from Dan, that his intent is to adopt the second approach.
If (when!) I get approach two working myself, it could/should lead to the situation where my own students are making #anyqs challenges for each other, with me doing the friendly prodding and giving advice. If students can get caught up in designing these types of prompt, perhaps they’ll increase their awareness of the mathematics around them, and forget that maths lessons aren’t supposed to be fun… And if they don’t get to the stage where they can create their own challenges, maybe they’ll have fun doing mine… (ooh, did I just say fun again?)