It’s Elementary! – Rich Tasks

Posted by on Jan 1, 2017 in Elementary | No Comments

Submitted by

Margaret Williams
K-2 Teaching and Learning Specialist for Elementary Math
Anoka-Hennepin ISD 11

We hear a lot about Rich Tasks these days. But…what does a “rich task” look like to you? What separates a rich task from an ordinary one? Where do we find them?

In Jo Boaler’s book, Mathematical Mindsets, she describes rich tasks as containing:

  • Multiple solution pathways
  • Multiple entry points – Low Floors, High Ceilings
  • High level of cognitive demand
  • Require complex and non-algorithmic thinking
  • Require considerable cognitive effort

This can be quite challenging for teachers – especially elementary, as we typically are responsible for many content areas. It’s exhausting, right? Every classroom has a range of abilities and learning styles. There is pressure to maintain pacing so we can cover grade level content.

What should we do? Some of us go online. Some of us rewrite our math units. Both of these options can be time consuming and risky.

I would like to propose we look at tasks that are already a part of our curricula and tweak them to make them fit the criteria above. And NOT put pressure on ourselves to do this every day! Maybe once a month to start…perhaps once a week…. Once we start changing our practice to be more inquiry focused, it will be hard to go back. Our students will be more engaged. We will understand where they are in their learning. And so on.

Again, Jo Boaler has suggestions for us as we move forward with this work:

  1. Open up the task so that there are multiple methods, pathways, and representations.
  2. Include inquiry opportunities.
  3. Ask the problem before teaching the method.
  4. Add a visual component and ask students how they see the mathematics.
  5. Extend the task to make it lower floor and higher ceiling.
  6. Ask students to convince and reason; be skeptical.

Of course, there will be challenges. Stay tuned to the next MathBits as we address challenges that we and our students may encounter and possible solutions.

Happy New Year!

Want to connect?

margaret.williams@ahschools.us or @nanstermath

New and Future Teachers: Be sure to attend the CONNECT Session on the Thursday evening before the MCTM Spring Conference in Duluth. For more information, contact connect@mctm.org<mailto:connect@mctm.org>.

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