Silk, E. (2009). Designing technology activities that teach mathematics. Technology Teacher, 69(4), 221-27.
Often times, when you learn a new math concept, someone tells you what it is, shows you how it works and then expects you to be able to apply it. You don’t learn the concept because you need it in order to solve a problem. You learn the concept and you are then to use it in order to solve an applied (usually a dreaded and not always realistic or applicable “word”) problem.
The author presents and alternative to this situation by asking students to make two robots dance in sync. They didn’t say this is how you are going to use proportions to make these two robots dance. Instead they presented a design problem that would have to be solved using proportions. The author provides proposed guidelines for others, including how to maintain student interest and how to explain the project to others.
The author acknowledges that redesigning a robotics project is both time-consuming and requires much effort. The author believes the effort and time is worth putting in.