"There is no decision that teachers make that has a greater impact on students' opportunities to learn and on their perceptions about what mathematics is than the selection or creation of the task with which the teacher engages students in studying mathematics." (Lappan & Briars, 1995).
But how do we engage students, meet all the needs and make sure we have met the goal of the lesson? You create a rich task that students can explore by making conceptual connections between prior and new concepts. As students work through the problem additional layers are revealed and students see and make sense of how concepts relate.
An Anchor Task, according to Dr. Yeap Ban Har" is the task that anchors all learning in the lesson, it leads to the achievement of the lesson's goals, and it engages students in the concrete and representational phases of learning a new concept."
Elements of an Anchor Task include:
· multiple entry points
· various methods to solve the task
· encourages students to collaborate
· take some time to figure out
Some of you may be thinking, how do I start or where do you find such tasks?
We have three options:
1) We use the task straight from the textbook.
2) We take the task from the textbook and alter it.
3) We write our own task.
In regards to #1, I have found very few textbooks that consistently have tasks I can pull from the book so you may be limited based on the textbook series you currently are using. In think!Mathematics, Dr. Yeap Ban Har wrote each lesson centered around a rich anchor task.
In looking at #3, writing a task takes time and right now we have very little time to spare. So, it is not fair to ask us to write a new task for each lesson. Not only does it take time, but we learned from our previous sections on fractions, the spiral is important in how lessons build upon themselves.
So, there you have it-we need to allocate our time and energy in looking at #2. How can we slightly alter a task to create a worthwhile experience?
This month we will look at strategies for teachers to use with an existing problem from their textbooks. You will be amazed at the impact a small change on a problem can make. I have listed some of these strategies below. In addition, our “Workshop Wednesday” series highlights the work of Dr. Marion Small, in creating open tasks using basic techniques.
In addition to these offerings, I would suggest reading "Guiding Questions for Selecting Mathematical Examples" in NCTM's January 2021, Mathematics Teacher edition of Learning & Teaching. In the article, author Rachel Snider offers suggestions on what to consider when selecting examples and practice problems in your classroom.
Please join us, on March 31st, 7:00 EST, and bring a few tasks for practicing the concepts.