What Worked. What Did Not.
One School's Experience with a Task CentreMarita Miesen
Catholic Regional College, Melton, Victoria, Australia
This article was first prepared for the 1996 December conference of the Mathematical Association of Victoria and was first published in the proceedings of that conference as:
Using the Curriculum Corporation Task Centre: What Worked. What Did Not., Forgasz et. al. (Editors), (1996) Mathematics: Making Connections, Mathematical Association of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, p.130.
The article was displayed on the web site of the Mathematical Association of Victoria from 1997 - 2008 when, by agreement with the MAV, it was transfered to this site.
|Our aims were to incorporate problem solving into our course and to cater for mixed abilities in the one classroom in a non-threatening, self-paced learning environment.||We bought 100 tasks from Curriculum Corporation in 1994. They are currently used in two ways in our Mathematics course. Some are stored in the Library in crates and have been categorised according to five of the Curriculum and Standards Framework Strands; ie: Space, Number, Measurement, Algebra and Chance & Data; and others, are stored in a separate room which classes visit. They were purchased as both a part of the Special Education Program and the Mathematics Curriculum. At the time we were attempting to set up a Numeracy Centre based on a model observed at Carwatha Secondary College, Noble Park in 1990.|
Our aims were to incorporate problem solving into our course and to cater for mixed abilities in the one classroom in a non-threatening, self-paced learning environment. Over the past three years we have tried using the tasks in various ways. We have also experimented with both different formats for students to express their interpretations of, and their solutions to, the tasks, and with different methods of assessing their interaction with the tasks. We have formed some opinions on what works and what does not.
|When purchasing the tasks from Curriculum
Corporation you have the option of additional consultancy. We participated
in two workshop based in-service programs and these were a positive
introduction to the use of the tasks and developed a lot of enthusiasm
amongst the staff. It felt somewhat like Christmas unpacking the tasks
together and actually working through some ourselves. We were presented
with many of the issues we were to face and the experiences of other
schools, in using these resources.
We already had a Numeracy Centre operating with an extra staff member allocated to those lessons. Students completed Tables Tests at the beginning and then went on to cooperative problem solving tasks we had produced. We replaced the problem solving tasks with Curriculum Corporation tasks which were bright, colourful and far more enjoyable.
|We participated in two workshop based in-service programs and these were a positive introduction to the use of the tasks and developed a lot of enthusiasm amongst the staff.|
Teachers' NotesWe could have purchased Teacher's Notes, of which we were given samples, which looked good but were beyond our budget and we wanted staff to become familiar with tasks themselves. We, with the help of a past student, wrote our own solutions for teachers under the following headings:
Expectations of StudentsWe expected students to write up tasks, and developed the format for this ourselves taking ideas from many we had seen. The headings were as follows:
|We use my Home Room which has enabled
constant checking. Rules were posted in the room and students are drilled
with checking before and after use, and on reporting to teachers any
||We did not want them deteriorating and becoming a wasted and unused resource.|
|...the tasks are well designed and almost every one has the potential to link to a unit we were teaching||I was aware of the need to integrate these tasks into the curriculum but this was an involved process because the tasks are well designed and almost every one has the potential to link to a unit we were teaching. So, having our management and organisation procedures established, it was time to begin using some of the tasks to their full potential. This year was the perfect time to begin incorporating them into units since we were rewriting our course and completing a Curriculum and Standards Frameworks audit.|
|After attending an in-service by Charles Lovitt, one of the producers of these tasks, I realised that they were best used as a starting point from which we could then teach content. They work best not as an addition to what we are doing to teach concepts but as a means of enabling the students to make links and establish concepts themselves. A model was presented entitled Replacement Unit and a description of this is available here. Our adaptation of this has been to choose areas of content within a unit and allow initial student learning to happen solely via the tasks. The staff feedback has been positive with comments including:||They work best not as an addition to what we are doing to teach concepts but as a means of enabling the students to make links and establish concepts themselves.|
YEAR 7 MATHS 1996 ... UNIT: CHANCE & DATA
|Engagement||Understanding Links||Amount of Logic|
|Shelley||1 2 3 4 5||1 2 3 4 5||1 2 3 4 5|
|Allyson||1 2 3 4 5||1 2 3 4 5||1 2 3 4 5|
|Clayton||1 2 3 4 5||1 2 3 4 5||1 2 3 4 5|
TASK CENTRE REPORT CHART
Home Room: ...........
|You must complete 15 to 20 tasks over the year and fill in this chart for each one. You must write up three tasks in a full report. The tasks you must choose from to report in full are on the notice board in Room 8.||Difficulty
1. Very easy
5. Too difficult
2. Sort of fun
4. A bit boring
|Task No.||Task Name||Explain what the task is about.||What strategy did you use?||Difficulty||Enjoyment||Teacher's Signature|
|1 2 3 4 5||1 2 3 4 5|
Students continued to work in pairs but each filled in their own chart. As the year progressed these became boring and the task centre needed supplementing, so once a crate of a particular strand had been used by a class in a particular unit, then it was able to be borrowed by that class from the Library and used during the Task Centre lesson.
|Our experience with these tasks has been so rich that I
recommend any Maths Faculty, Primary or Secondary, purchase them. I also
recommend that they use the consultancy service. My suggestions for their
actual use are:
||I recommend any Maths Faculty, Primary or Secondary, purchase them ... [and] ... use the consultancy service.|