My colleagues and I met to discuss our successes and failures with the Spaghetti Bridge lesson. Oddly enough, others that tried this same lesson had the same exact problems that I encountered. Students had no drive or motivation to complete the assignment.... sadly enough, we also discussed that is much the issue during ANY lesson. Students lack the curiosity and work ethic necessary to complete an open-ended problem such as this. They don't want to solve the problem... it's almost like they are too lazy to think through the problem. They look for easy ways out of the situation. For example, I had no less than three groups of students that put spaghetti flat on the table, set the textbook on top of the spaghetti, and then said "Yep! The spaghetti supports the weight of the textbook." They didn't use math, science, or any other form of higher order thinking. Additionally, when I asked them to think BEYOND this answer, students literally rolled their eyes, clearly inconvenienced by the change in plans.
So how do we "fix" this? No one really had an answer to the monumental question. Teachers feel exhausted at the end of the day, constantly struggling to encourage and motivate students. The standards continue to be more and more challenging with each passing day. Even as we speak, Common Core Standards are raising the bar in math, pushing students to grasp increasingly complex concepts and younger ages.
They can do it, of this I have no doubt. But do they want to?
Our next challenge is to develop another Meyer-ized lesson that balances structure with an open-ended problem. We'd like to engage students, motivating them to come up with a thoughful solution to the problem, rather than just the easiest solution.