I have been mulling over the advice of a veteran IMP teacher (Michael Reitemeyer). He mentioned in an email how he tries to use the context of the lessons to introduce topics but then moves as quickly as possible to the abstract. Sonya and I were discussing today how we would like to develop around 8-10 "homework/classwork" problems that reiterate the concept of the day/lesson. This is not appropriate for every lesson but there are several that it would work well with. For instance, each time we develop/investigate a new exponent law in Alice we could assign 8-10 practice problems. There is a point in Overland Trail where I wish I had given them more problems in which they practiced graphing lines without a context. The problems they will see on standardized tests won't always have a story to go with them.
Now...having said all of the above...I have been practicing solving equations with my 5th period. We have been working through a packet together of different types of equations. Today I once again heard some grumblings. I told them that they didn't realize how much they liked the textbook we were using (IMP Meaningful Math Algebra). They were talking about LOVING the textbook. They enjoy the math so much more when there is a story/context to help make sense of it all. I have especially found this to be true with my students who struggle with the math.