MathematicalTasks.org intends to improve math education by creating free tasks, introducing pedagogy that increases access and supporting implementation. Using tasks is an alternative to direct instruction. Tasks often disrupt a student’s schema about what “doing math” looks and sounds like providing access to all learners. Highly capable students will also benefit when cognitive demand is increased.
This site will meet the needs of educators to find high-quality mathematical tasks and learn more about implementing tasks effectively. Information on this site is based on well-established research and best practices. See our citations page.
Using tasks takes time to learn, don’t give up! Mistakes are simply learning opportunities, so adjust and try again. Tasks increase how well students learn content, so keep up the work that makes a difference.
All three elements contribute to the learning process, and all are necessary. Curricular materials, instructional practices or the student’s interpretation of the task could be barriers to full implementation. For example, a teacher may not choose a rich task out of fear students can’t access the task. Alternately, rich tasks are chosen, but the teacher reduces the cognitive demand by over-scaffolding or funneling to specific lines of thinking. Doing so ultimately lowers cognitive demand. Finally, students may depend on the teacher to affirm their answers. Or they may seek the students assigned as “high academic status” to provide the thinking for the group. These challenges and many more will be addressed on this site which is WHY it has been created!
To keep students learning, we need high cognitive demand tasks in the hands of our students. To make that happen, we NEED high cognitive demand tasks. It is very simple to lower the cognitive demand, but incredibly challenging to raise the level of cognitive demand (Stein & Lane, 1996) Some would say it is almost impossible to raise the level of cognitive demand, especially in the moment of teaching. To make this happen, more tasks need to be in the hands of more teachers.
More Than Tasks
Not only do teachers need access to high cognitive demand tasks, but also how to effectively use them. Based on a piece of research by Sten, Smith Henning & Silver (2000), more than half of all “Level 3 – Procedures WITH connections” tasks that were given to teachers for use in class resulted in a lower cognitive demand when implemented. And, only 37% of tasks given to teachers that were the highest level “Level 4 – Doing Mathematics” maintained their high level of cognitive demand. In fact, in the same study, at all sites, the MOST effective implementation resulted in only 65% of tasks provided at high-level cognitive demand, maintained its high-level status…on the low end only 11% remained high-level tasks after implementation with students.
And that is why this work is so critical, MathematicalTasks.org is aimed at increasing numbers like these, helping teachers and students feel more successful in classrooms, reduce math phobia and increase outcomes from all students, especially minority students who tend to be systematically marginalized. Training is critical, but so is access to the learning. This site is one way to provide access for teachers, and more teachers mean more students…the growth could be exponential.
We fully support the work by our colleagues at YouCubed by Jo Boaler, an organization committed to improving access to math. Henri Picciotto has also done some amazing work and published many free materials for teachers on his MathEd.Page. We have searched these sites and read their materials to form personal pedagogy found on this page.