The lessons in our math curriculum always kept students at the low-level of Blooms: calculate, calculate, and calculate some more. Sure, sometimes the book would try to spice it up with a contrived word problem, but **there was never anything in our math program that pushed students past the Apply level of Bloom’s**.

So, here’s how I’d take a math topic to an **actually interesting level of thinking**.

- Bring in some
*controversy*. I’ll do this with some surprising data. - Frame the task with a cross-curricular big idea statement.

### 1. The Controversial Data

When I talk about controversy, I don’t mean something that will lead to parent phone calls. I just mean something that naturally sparks disagreement. (I wrote more about building on controversy here).

In this case, **the controversy is about donuts vs. healthy food**. It all started with this intriguing Mother Jones article about the amount of sugar in seemingly healthy items. The article claims that **a small orange juice has double the sugar in a Krispy Kreme donut!** A restaurant salad has 4.5 times the sugar. An Odwalla drink has *five times the sugar of a donut!?*

This surprising data **pulls students towards math.** How could it possibly be true!? But, rather than jump straight to calculating, I set up a big idea.

### 2. The Big Idea

I used big idea statements across my curriculum (you can read more about that here).

- I framed my earth science content with “Power can be seen or unseen.”
- Our writing lessons always returned to “Great writing is clear, creative, and correct.”
- My colleague, Araceli, used the Will Durant quote “Civilization begins with order, grow with liberty, and ends with chaos” to teach social studies.

But **I rarely used these statements in math** (or even *saw* them used). So, to frame the donut investigation, I went with this big idea:

“When we have limited information, we can draw the wrong conclusions.

Now, I could **frame the whole project around misconceptions** rather than just having students “do math.” I chose to follow these main steps:

**Verify the information.**Are the claims even true? Some of the article’s calculations are actually simplified a bit. Students will uncover this.*Exciting!!*(Note that they’re also determining the actual ratios, but this serves a larger purpose. We’re not just calculating to calculate!)**Add a new item.**Students will pick whatever food or drink they’d like and calculate how many Krispy Kreme’s of sugar it has.**Change the nutrition item.**Was sugar a particularly misleading measurement? Will the orange juice and salad look better if we use a different measurement? Fiber? Carbohydrates? Saturated fat?

And, along the way, I’m constantly asking students how much they trust that initial article. We bring it back to the big idea about misconceptions. As we gather more information, do we trust the article more or less?

See how, by using that big idea, we’re very naturally crossing into language arts topics like persuasion? Could we conclude by writing a critique of the article’s findings? Or could we create an advertisement for Krispy Kreme, portraying the donuts as *healthier* than salad!?

### Resources

- I wrote more about framing lessons with big ideas.
- I also wrote about finding controversy.
- And, yep, there’s a video version of this lesson over at Byrdseed.TV!