A 3-Act Task on a shoestring! M&M Jam

3-Act Tasks are lesson structures designed to specifically engage students in modeling with math. Through Dan Meyer’s blog and Graham Fletcher’s 3-Act Task lessons , I have learned about and found amazing resources.

When our teacher math committee participated in a school-wide “recruiter” fair for new teacher members, the committee wanted to share a quick math lesson with our teammates. Thinking about the structure of 3-act tasks, this was our plan.

Act 1The central conflict is introduced. Typically this is shown in a quick video. For us, it was a small mason jar full of M&Ms.

Act 2We must overcome obstacles, look for resources, and/or develop new tools to solve the conflict. For us, we offered a resource… provided only upon request.



Additionally, teachers were asked to think of an estimate that was too high (but close) and an estimate that was too low (but also close). During a 3-act task, students could be asked to write these estimates down or record them on a number line.

Each teacher recorded his or her guess on a slip of paper and put a tally to show in what range their guess fell.



Act 3Resolve the conflict. Set up a sequel/extension. In a 3-Act Task with students, the resolution is often revealed in a video. For us, we emailed the result of our count to teachers.



With the range of teachers at our school, from Early Learners (three year olds) through sixth grade, this task wasn’t focused on one particular standard or big idea. But in the classroom, we would begin with what we want students to understand (standard/big idea) before choosing a task.

  • What standards/ big ideas could be addressed in your classroom with this 3-act task on a shoestring?
  • What resources for students would be appropriate for those chosen standards?

Your thoughts are welcomed!



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