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Task Centre News

October 2008

979 tasks placed in schools during September.
309,383 placed since the project began in July 1992.

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In this month's News you will find:

Letter from Lance Rooney

Letter from Joshua Dean Overseas Influence

Menu Maths

Problem Solving Task Centre Research

PSTC Network History
Fregon Scrapbooks

Tasks of the Month
Task 74, Button Sort
Task 75, What's It Worth?

Maths on the Move 2009
Note Paper
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  • Letter from Lance Rooney
    Lance teaches at the Immaculate Heart of Mary school in Newborough Victoria and in August organised a Maths on the Move pupil free day followed by a Discussion Lesson day. On October 10th he wrote:
    Doug,

    How are you going? Busy I hope. I have to say that since your 2 days at St Mary's there has been a change in the way Mathematics has been presented in the classroom. The learning centre tasks are being used and there is a great deal of professional discussion and sharing that is occurring between teachers about what has worked, what has not and how to dig deeper with the tasks to get the most out of them. We still have a long way to go, but the early signs have been encouraging.

    Personally, I have enjoyed completing a number of whole class investigations, especially with the Grade 6 children. I recently completed the make me a million investigation with them. I was shocked to learn how few of them had a meaningful concept of how big a million actually is. They believed that it was possible for a person to live a million days and it took a lot of convincing to get them to accept that you really have to live over 2700 years to achieve that. Of course, that lead to how old for 1,000,000 hours, minutes and seconds and they decided that in order to be told to do something 1,000,000 times it would require 11 solid days of nagging. None the less it was fun. I also introduced the game Nim to them. As they are chess nuts at the moment, this strategic game was right up their alley and they wanted to start a Nim tournament.

    I also ran Row Points (one of your Discussion Lessons) with Grade 3/4. It was a wonderful session. In the end (we could only manage a high score of 40) I was asked by a Grade 4 girl What would happen if we had 14 counters? Would our top score only go up to 41 or would it be much more? It is questions like this that make me believe that we are on the right track in getting our children to think like mathematicians.

    Have a great day. Smile and Enjoy.
    Lance Rooney

  • Letter from Joshua Dean
    Joshua works at Alice Springs High School, a totally different environment to Lance, but there are many similarities in their letters. Perhaps the most important is the place professional development has played in changing their teaching practice. On October 17th Joshua wrote:
    Hi Doug,

    I have definitely found the Maths300 resources very useful - they certainly tick all the boxes from a pedagogical point of view - well done with everything there! ... It's not just the richness of the tasks that has been transformative in the classroom for me - it is the approach from the teacher that they call for. I used to be a very 'controlling' and content-oriented educator, but I think I am achieving a better balance these days. One thing that particularly struck me was observing Charles Lovitt deliver a PD session in Tennant Creek at the start of the year, showcasing a variety of tasks. Just the way he was able to lay down the challenge, to conjure intrigue and interest with a softly spoken approach with few words - inviting us to 'come and have a look at this' and 'come and have a go', just as he would with adolescents but just as effective with the adults that were present. Anyhow, I look forward to learning more about what you guys are up to - in particular for Indigenous education - and I am sure we will be in touch in the future.

    Regards,
    Josh Dean

  • Overseas Influence
    Ina, our Distribution Manager, put an interesting list on my table this month. She had been looking back through the sales since January and noticed the interest from beyond our shores. How does this look to you?
    • China ... 300 tasks for orders from two schools
    • Scotland ... 8 Maths With Attitude kits to one school
    • Sweden ... 100 Poly Plug, 47 tasks and other resources to an education company and 100 tasks to a school
    • United Arab Emirates ... 100 tasks and 32 Maths With Attitude kits for orders from two schools
    • Vietnam ... 100 tasks to a school

  • Menu Maths
    Students making choices which direct their own mathematical learning is a proven technique for higher level engagement, deeper and richer learning and fewer (if any) class management problems. Menu Maths is exactly as it sounds. Students select from a menu of mathematical activities - the best mathematical fare that can be found. Aaron Peeters, Kingsbury Primary School has written a wonderful article on how he and his school make use of this structure. No matter what level you teach, this relaxed, easy-to-read article will give you food for thought. See Link List below.

    If you would like to learn more about the work at Kingsbury apply for one of Aaron's workshops (G9, repeated as H8) at the MAV annual December Conference.

  • Problem Solving Task Centre Research
    In 1994/95 Margarita Pavlou and Doug Clarke carried out interview research into Problem Solving Task Centres and the Professional Development of Teachers. Their paper confirms our claim that our work is 100% professional development (evidenced also by the letters above) and has much to offer any teachers, in any decade, who are:
    1. investigating the possibility of using tasks, or
    2. clarifying their thinking on the value of the task-based program already in their school.

    This file has been transferred from the Mathematical Association of Victoria site. We hope that through the transfer we have been able to make the paper even more readable; in fact, we claim it is a 'must read' for every educator interested in hands-on problem solving tasks. See Link List below.

  • PSTC Network History
    For 15 years, Michael Richards co-ordinated a Problem Solving Task Centre Network. Two sample articles from the Network's Newsletter which, for a decade or so have been stored on the Mathematical Association of Victoria site, were recently transferred to the Mathematics Task Centre. This is part of an on-going partnership with the MAV aimed at collecting all problem solving task centre information in the one place. See the Link List below.

  • Fregon Scrapbooks
    No, these are not student scrapbooks ... they are teacher scrapbooks!
    Teachers move on.
    • How do you record for those who follow the great investigations that have worked for your kids?
    • How do you build a framework to encourage the continuation of investigations as the core of mathematics learning and discourage in-coming teachers from return to text-based learning?

    Teachers at Fregon Anangu School in far northwest South Australia show us how they have used Publisher to build amazing child-centred electronic scrapbooks in an effort to answer these questions. We have converted the files to JPG so everyone can see them and included a link to a high resolution copy of each one so you can get up close and personal with the detail. See Link List below.

    Don't have Publisher, or don't know how to use it? Try a digital camera and a good old fashioned hard copy version. For further thoughts on maintaining use of the tasks as the driving mathematical force of your curriculum see below in the link Principles of Continuing Use.

  • Tasks of the Month
    Two new cameos this month.
    • Button Sort is a particularly open-ended task which focuses on sorting, classifying and logical decisions. Diagrams like flow charts are used to present the main challenge which at each position is to find a button with the correct attributes. To do that easily, although not required, the students may first need to sort the buttons into attribute groups; perhaps even use Venn Diagrams.
    • What's It Worth? is a rich combination of spatial challenges, value relations calculations and problem solving strategies. It involves finding all pentiamonds and hexiamonds as well as making calculations based on a money value assigned to a particular part or whole?
    Button Sort      What's It Worth?
    Click a photo to access its cameo, or access all current cameos through the Link List below.

  • Maths on the Move 2009
    No doubt, in the articles above, you have noticed the key component of professional development in the successes schools and teachers are having in building their Working Mathematically curriculum around tasks and whole class investigations. Now is the time to be booking up your sessions for 2009. We already have two full day sessions of Learning to Work Like a Mathematician, and at least four shorter conference sessions on the same theme, booked for New Zealand in February. Two schools have booked Working Mathematically Curriculum Pack workshops, one of our other off-the-shelf one day courses, for January. See Maths on the Move Workshop Library and PD Partnerships in the Link List below.

  • Did you miss the September News?
    If so you missed information about:
    1. Iceberg Information about two Tasks of the Month (Tasks 72 & 73)
    2. A detailed presentation of Puzzle Olympics
    3. The return of several historic task centre documents to this site as part of an agreement with the Mathematical Association of Victoria to collect problem solving task centre information on one site.
    4. ...and more

Keep smiling,
Doug.

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