My Nerdiest Video Story Problem Yet!

You’re in Los Angeles for 48 hours. You have a workshop to lead, formal and informal professional gatherings to attend, and an online class with a final grading deadline looming. When all of that is done, you’re left with a couple hours to spend on sight-seeing. If you’re the average person, you might visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Venice Beach, or stroll down Rodeo Drive. If you’re a closeted nerd like myself, you’d head straight for Meltdown Comics on Sunset Blvd. I have no illusions of being a graphic novel connoisseur, or an avid consumer of the Nerdist network’s podcasts. However, I do recognize the gravitas of “nerd Meccas” like Meltdown Comics and the Nerdmelt Showroom. So with the gracious permission of the staff working the store, I was able to produce a video story problem about estimating the store’s inventory; one of the best curated assemblages of comics in North America.

I feel obligated to call out the poor production value for this video, since I filmed it in the heart of the global film and television industry. Moving passed that, there are a few liberties I took in creating this video story problem. One, there are actually a few more cabinets/shelves/cases of comics that I didn’t point out in the interest of not over complicating the problem. Two, many of the shelves contained graphic novels, NOT traditional comics (my apologies to graphic novel aficionados). And third, I didn’t allow for the various sizes of books or for the extra room that “face out” titles would take up on the shelves. I wasn’t planning on actually filming this video story problem (as is the case with many of those I create). I just wanted to see an awesomely geeky cultural hotspot of all things nerdy, and the idea for the problem came as I was browsing the shelves for some Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels for my kids (they’re we’re big fans).

None of the liberties and shortcuts I took bother me as much as they once did. When a few of us started playing around with capturing authentic curiosity in math and science in the real world, I stuck to a very rigid model. I wanted a clear “question up front”, present the raw information as I gathered it approach. In the last 2+ years, I’ve seen many educators and students explore other templates, including the slightly more structured variant of what I refer to as the “traditional video story problem” that I created at Meltdown. A spectrum has developed, with problems falling on a continuum. On one end it produces videos that I hope encourage Dan Meyer to continue sharing these as an example of engaging curiosities in math and science. On the other end of the video story problem spectrum, there are videos that make the concept much more palatable for traditional classroom teachers looking for a “project” to do with students. I like to think that once you start down the continuum, you’ll eventually hit a sweet spot that balances the wide-open and constructed variants of video story problems. I think about this often enough, that in a way, you can say that I’ve been pretty nerd-like in my focus to improve upon and index the various “taxonomies” of these problems. Although I haven’t written about it much, I do start to see clear templates develop.


There are clearly more structured problems that mimic text-book questions with a later of digital storytelling added upon it:


And then you have the much more real-world drive video story problems where students venture out into the real world to give their problems context:


And at the far end of the “what in the world can I do with this” edge of the spectrum are my ramblings that may or may not have direct application to a tightly controlled curriculum sequence:


Regardless of whether I actually make time to sit down and define this admittedly teacher-nerd continuum of video story problems, I’m still having a blast creating them, and helping other teachers find creative ways to bring the real world into their classrooms through digital media. A HUGE thanks to Meltdown Comics for letting me take video in their store, and for taking a few liberties with just how many titles they have in their inventory!


  1. This is great! I think I am going to use this for my Greek Mythology unit. And I never would have thought about this for math problems but what a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to seeing more examples of this.

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