Thursday, July 11, 2013

"How To" create a math task.

Creating a Math Task

I cannot tell you how much I love the idea of Common Core math tasks. The tasks have changed the way that I teach, how the students think, and how we collaborate as a team in my classroom-across ALL content areas.

I have been so blessed to be able to meet a lot teachers across the state of Tennessee in the last few months when attending state trainings. We have had the chance to ask/answer each other's questions, discuss how we implement these tasks, and how we use the information from the tasks to drive further instruction.

One thing I want to REALLY stress to you is that tasks can be used in a variety of ways and many teachers use them differently in their classrooms. That is A-OKAY. In fact, that is what makes these tasks so beneficial to the students. Make it work for you and your class. 

So..these tasks are great. do I create one? Well, that is what I am going to share with you today.  Here are my top 5 tips to think about when creating a task for your students.

Make sure the task is relevant.
Students should work on a task that is relevant to what they are learning. This gives them a chance to apply previous knowledge to a task. This also includes using subject matter that is relevant to the real world and situations that your students can relate to. 

Set high expectations.

Students will perform at the level that you expect them to. The task should be higher level. It is much more beneficial to create and assign students a task that is going to challenge them instead of giving a task that has little rigor and low expectations. 

Include multiple solution paths.

It is not a task if there is only one way to solve the problem.

Here are two examples of how you can turn a one step, low rigor number sentence into a rigorous, higher level task.

Low Level- Max has 7 marbles in one bag and 5 marbles in another bag. How many marbles does Max have altogether?
This should not be used as a task because it does not allow the students to explore and represent different ways to solve the problem at hand. The students can only arrive at one answer.

High Level- Max has two bags of marbles. He has 12 marbles in all. Each bag contains an odd number of marbles. Write a number sentence and draw a picture to show how many marbles are in each bag.
This can be used as a task because it requires the students to try multiple number sentences to answer the problem. Not every student will get the same answer or find the answer in the same way. It generates great math exploration and group discussion.

Require students to represent their answers in multiple ways.

As teachers, we know that different students arrive at the answer to a problem in different ways and at different speeds. It is always a good exercise to ask the students to represent their solution path in a variety of ways. I always ask the students to represent their work using words, number sentences/equations, and diagrams/labels. This allows the students to show their understanding of the skill as well as continuously strengthen different math concepts and practices. 

Only attach standards and practices to a task if ALL students will meet and use that standard when solving the task.

**This one was new to me. I never thought about this until my recent common core training. If not every student will "fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental math strategies" (2.OA.B.2) while solving the math task then that standard should not be added to the task. The same goes with the math practices. Every student must be able to identify with every standard and practice in order to use it to label that task.

And, here is a graphic organizer that I use for my math tasks. I hope it gives you a starting place if you do not use math tasks yet or a new tool if you already do! 
I go back to work in about three weeks. Eeek! My summer is just flying by! I hope you are enjoying yours!


  1. Hey Sarah! Great post. I think I requested a copy of the Math Task Organizer, but I have no idea. I know nothing about Google Drive!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  2. Alison,

    I think I shared the link correctly, now! It should just let you download now. If not..let me know!

    Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Sarah, awesome post! Thanks so much for taking the time for writing it. I never really thought about the last one either, but definitely wise words!

    By the way, I nominated your blog for a Liebster Award. You can find out more info on my blog:


I LOVE hearing from you! Thanks for leaving me a note! :)