Nike Running 1 (#3ACT)


Have you ever seen someone take a potentially excellent mathematical task and destroy it by flubbing the presentation? Have you ever done that yourself? I’m 2 for 2 so far (with a heavy emphasis on the second offense), so it’s with some excitement and a little bit of nervousness that I share my first Three Act task.

Running with Scissors Smartphones

About two years ago I began running with a smartphone to track my distance, pace, etc.. Initially, this on-the-run-phone-death-grip was a result of the fact that I was too lazy (cheap?) to purchase an armband case. However, after a while I found I liked running with my phone in hand. Several months ago I looked down and thought, “Hey, I could take screenshots while I run and…”

The Task

The result of that brainstorm, and much marinating and tinkering afterwards, is this, my first real attempt at a Three Act task.

Request for Critique

I’m fairly certain there is an interesting task contained within the screenshots I’ve grabbed, but (as hinted at in the introduction) I’m afraid I may have bungled it away.

First and foremost, I’d love to receive your general feedback. What works, what doesn’t, what could be improved? Is there an interesting task buried in there, and have I done it any justice?

I also have a few specific questions in mind. If you’re interesting in reading and/or responding to those, head over here. I expect I’ll want/need feedback on most (all?) of my Three Act tasks, so I threw something together to keep a running tally of my Three Act uncertainties, should anyone be inclined to weigh in on specifics.

I know it’ll require a bit of browser-tab-juggling,  but please leave any feedback in the comments below, or hit me up directly on Twitter (@mjfenton).

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to getting better at this with your help!

Which Run? (a.k.a. Now I’m Just Rambling)

I’ve captured screenshots of seven or eight runs over the past few months. Depending on the run, I’ve taken screenshots at every 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, or 1/5 of the total distance (or sometimes every 0.25, 0.5, or 1 mi), plus the “countdown” at the end (every 0.01 mi for the last 0.13 mi of the run).

With the various total distances and screenshot “splits” I’m considering creating a series of problems of varying difficulty, all of which require students to think proportionally, interpolate, extrapolate, and explain their reasoning. I think a series of these problems might exist best as simple stills of three screenshots, maybe like this:

Nike Running 2 (Three Acts)

Sequels would include, “When was Mr. Fenton at the 1 mile mark? How far after 23 minutes? 37 minutes?” And so on.

Getting On With It

Okay, ramble over. Time to hit “Publish” and see what the world thinks of what I have created, not what I might create.


This afternoon was my first experience adding more than a single image to Dan Meyer’s It really is a Three Act task paradise. Thanks, Dan (and everyone else who contributed to the site’s quality by using it and asking for Dan to make it better).

UPDATE: Okay, so my warning about messing up the presentation was apparently quite warranted. I never bothered to check if the distance meter in the middle of the screenshots was accurate. Thanks for nothing, Nike… it’s not even close. That essentially kills a major strategy I intended students to use in solving the problem.

There were a few suggestions on Twitter for how to use this not-to-scale-ness as part of the lesson, one of which seems particularly worth exploring.

For now, my solution was to re-do the Three Act task to offer students enough information to find the solution along another path.

The results are Nike Running 2A (given distance, find time) and Nike Running 2B (given time, find distance). Again, I covet your feedback.



  1. Extension: Start an unknown distance away from a given location, then offer two screen shot data points, and have students determine the unknown distance.

  2. They are very, very similar. They were two (slightly) different approaches to presenting the problem, and I ended up being unhappy with both of them. I still think there are some great proportional reasoning problems hidden there, so I’ve reworked the approach/presentation of the problems and called it .

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