Math Tasks

My district has rolled out the math common core standards this year.  On Monday, we had a non-student day so teachers could have a Professional Growth Day.  Our morning was devoted to math instruction and how this looks now that we are trying to implement the common core standards.

We watched several videos of teachers giving their students math tasks.  These are real-world problems that students have to solve.  After our morning of discussion and debate, I met with my grade-level team to see how we could create math tasks for an upcoming math unit.  Interestingly enough, the math unit was on solving story problems.  I am not quite there yet. I am still trying to finish up a mini-unit on geometry.  I feel great knowing that my team has prepared a few math tasks that I can use when I get to that unit.

In the meantime, I was getting ready to tackle the idea of perimeter with my 2nd graders on Tuesday.  I realized that I could develop a math task for this.  My task was decorating gift boxes.  I wanted to wrap a piece of ribbon around the edge of the box lid.  I gave my students the dimensions of the lid and asked them to help me figure out how much ribbon I would need to decorate the boxes.  I wasn’t sure how this task would go or if students would understand the task.  But, I was pleasantly surprised by the math work and math talk that was generated as I walked around the classroom.  I spent my time asking students about their discoveries and asking them to explain their thinking.  I was also able to touch base with the students who were having difficulty.

Math is at the end of my day.  All I know is that by the end of math, I was exhausted from all that activity.  However, I think the students had fun while they learned about perimeter (They didn’t know this at the time.).  I also know that I don’t necessarily need to make everything into a math task.  I think I need to be mindful of what concepts actually need to be a math task.  I also believe that students will become comfortable with this process the more I do them.  Finally, when I did my lesson on perimeter today, the students were able to connect our math task from Tuesday to the problems we had to complete today.  I know that when students can make these kinds of connections, math will make much more sense to them.  That’s the reason why I am going to keep pushing myself to give more math tasks in my classroom.  Sure it is a  lot more work, but it is totally worth it.