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What is a Task?

Task 90, Tricube Constructions B shown here is just one example from our collection of over 240. Each task is a hands-on problem solving experience packaged with the materials students can use to explore the problem.

Some students might not use the materials, but without them, some students (and perhaps teachers) might not be able to begin.

Task 90 Tricube Constructions B

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In March 1977 Neville de Mestre and Bea Duncan opened the doors of the first Task Centre at Campbell Primary School, Canberra. In this original form, it was called a Task Centre because the problem solving was in a dedicated room in the school. Classes were timetabled to visit the room regularly. This was the first Task Centre in the world and it operated for 15 years before government support was finally withdrawn.
  • A network of enthusiastic 'task centre teachers' grew from this first experience and a body of classroom-based wisdom developed to integrate tasks in a variety of ways apart from the original model.
  • Michael Richards (Victoria) was one of these teachers and in 1995 he wrote a Ten Year Retrospective view of his decade integrating tasks into his teaching.
  • Curriculum Corporation was established at the beginning of the 90s by the Ministers of Education of Australia. Its Mathematics Professional Services (formerly MCTP) took up the challenge to collect and distribute stories of excellent mathematics education.
  • In 1992 Mathematics Professional Services turned to task centre teachers to collect their stories under the auspices of the Mathematics Task Centre Project. The first Task Centre Project workshop designed to disseminate this wisdom to a new school was held on July 1st 1992.
  • Since the concept is about hands-on problem solving access to mathematics learning, these stories could not be retold without the tasks and materials. Again the Mathematics Task Centre Project turned to the experience of these early task centre teachers and invited ten schools to share their ten best tasks. These became the first published kit of 100 tasks.
  • Over the years, the Mathematics Task Centre Project became the vehicle for transmitting the collegiate wisdom of practice and distributing a huge range of tasks and support resources.
  • In January 2004, Black Douglas Professional Education Services, which had been involved since 1992, assumed management of the Project on behalf of Curriculum Corporation, Australia.
  • In June 2004, almost thirty years after he created the Task Centre concept, Neville de Mestre visited the Black Douglas office to see how his baby had grown ... and to refresh and prepare himself for an upcoming trip to Germany to inform educators about the value of hands-on problem solving tasks.
  • From April 2010, following the cessation of Curriculum Corporation, Black Douglas began to gather all its mathematics education web material into a new gateway called Mathematics Centre. This included a new space for the Mathematics Task Centre, a revision, refresh and expansion of the material collected over previous decades and, later, a complete rewrite of every task.
  • This major revision, now known as the Mathematics Task Centre, was released on July 1st 2011, 19 years to the day after the first Mathematics Task Centre Project workshop.
  • At the end of the Project on June 30th 2011, the commitment of Charles Lovitt, Doug. Williams and their small team had seen 332,325 Project tasks placed in schools around the world. Every one of these is a professional development opportunity for teachers and an invitation to students to work like a mathematician.
  • Mathematics Centre hopes to continue and strengthen this support for teacher professional development and student learning.
  • For many years, tasks from the original Task Centre travelled Australia as the Questacon Maths Centre, a Federal Government sponsored education initiative.
  • You can explore the depth of many tasks in the Task Cameos link and explore more background in our history link.


  • Tasks are available in all strands of the curriculum - number, space, chance & data, pattern & algebra, measurement, language & logic.
  • We have prepared the tasks with all levels from Year 2 through Year 10 in mind, but many teachers have adapted the tasks to suit K - 2 and 11 - 12.
  • A catalogue of currently available tasks can be found in the Resources &Ordering link.
  • If you decide to order tasks you only need to specify the grade levels at which they will be used and any special needs such as 'brighter students' or 'pattern & algebra only'. Our experienced people will choose for you.
  • Over many years teachers have constructed and trialed the use of tasks packaged in a variety of kits. These options are also detailed in the Resources &Ordering link.

Historic Photos

At a professional development workshop in Cairns in February 2004, Ray Elias from the Cairns School of Distance Education displayed some of the tasks made for him by the local Technical College students in the 1980s. These examples show the quality work that went into the creation of all the tasks used in the first task centre schools. Our work can't match the 'coffee table' quality of these pieces and still mass produce tasks at a reasonable price. However we have learned from these pioneers to apply their 'look good, feel good, learn more' principles to the choice of colour, range and type of materials used across the collection of tasks.

Patterned Polygons

Patterned Polygons Equipment:
  • Board with 16 squares
  • 4 Hexagons
  • 4 Triangles
  • 4 Diamonds
  • 4 Squares
Arrange the numbered hexagons, triangles, diamonds and squares in a 4 x 4 pattern so that every horizontal row, vertical column and leading diagonal contains...

Six Square Puzzle

Six Square Puzzle Equipment:
  • 17 Rods
Begin with the rods arranged as shown each time.
Take away 5 rods and leave 4 squares...
This task exists in our collection today with the same name and the same challenges.

Uranium Pile

Uranium Pile Equipment:
  • Board with 9 holes
  • 9 numbered rods
Arrange the rods so that each row, each column and each diagonal add up to 30.

Record Sheet

Record Sheet Each task had a sheet included that recorded who used the task, when, and what they thought about it. The first date on this one from Patterned Polygons is 1987!! There really is a history of remarkable teachers who have contributed to the wisdom embedded in the Task Centre Project.

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More from the Mathematics Task Centre