Rich Task? Being that it is St. Patrick's Day, I could blog about the leprechaun's search for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or talk of my experience searching for the many riches of the Emerald Isle. Instead, however, this post is about rich mathematical tasks as described in so many journals and websites on mathematical instruction, and as has recently been the focus of many conversations about math here in our district.
Question 1: What is a rich mathematical task?
I performed an internet search using the following query, "What is the definition of a rich task?" The query yielded these webpage descriptors:
When reading these three webpage descriptors I asked myself, What teachers wouldn't want their lessons to encourage students to display their learning, perform tasks that are beyond memorization, and generate enthusiasm for learning? The answer: none.
Questions 2: What are the hurdles that slow a teacher's implementation of rich tasks?
Instead of listing all the hurdles, let's focus on getting over the first one. For me, the first hurdle was always the initial experiment. Once I tried a method and found that it had merit, I would proceed forward towards the next hurdle. What I am saying is that the only way to get over a hurdle, is to take a run at it. I have been encouraged by many classroom teachers who are taking a run at the first hurdle and are trying rich mathematical tasks. Our teachers are incorporating a variety of rich tasks in their classrooms and helping students to struggle productively through the use of these tasks. The feedback that I have been receiving from the teachers has been positive: they often find that their students are engaged in meaningful discussions that help to develop conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts.
Question 3: Where can I find the resources I need to take a run at it?
For your convenience, the Secondary Curriculum and Instruction team continues to add links to many high quality websites containing rich mathematical tasks on this website. You can also check out this PDF that succinctly describes the what, where, why, and how to for rich tasks.
Question 4: So, what's keeping you from giving rich tasks a try?
It is often best to make decisions based upon research, so take the time to look into it and then give it a try...you may just find that pot of gold. Now, Go N-Eiri An T-Adh Leat (Good luck) and Slainte (Good health/cheers) to you.
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, aka 'Danny Boy', Secondary Implementation Associate
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