Like many math teachers, I have been following Dan Meyer's discussion on "fake world" math tasks versus "real world" math tasks with interest, especially since one of my early blog posts was on this subject and one of the presentations I do for teachers is on this very topic.
My observation is that it is not the task that defines whether it is fake or real, it is the person doing the task. Our work then should focus on developing criteria on what makes tasks real for children, and then see which tasks support the criteria we establish. Here are some criteria I think we should consider when developing tasks for students, aside from the obvious; the task should engage students in mathematical thinking.
Note that these criteria all lead to an important conclusion; some tasks will be considered fake by some students, and real by others. It is important to note too that because of our shared society and context, there are some tasks which will be real for almost all students, and there are other tasks which will be fake for almost all students.
David is a Formative Assessment Specialist for Mathematics at New Visions for Public Schools in NYC. He has been teaching since 2002, and has worked in Brooklyn, London, Bangkok, and Vancouver before moving back to the United States. He has his Masters degree in Educational Technology from UBC, and is the co-author of a mathematics textbook. He has been published in ISTE's Leading and Learning, Educational Technology Solutions, The Software Developers Journal, The Bangkok Post and Edutopia. He blogs with the Cooperative Catalyst, and is the Assessment group facilitator for Edutopia. He has also helped organize the first Edcamp in Canada, and TEDxKIDS@BC.