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Task Centre News

February 2009

1960 tasks placed in schools during Dec/Jan.
313,094 placed since the project began in July 1992.

We offer an email news service from each of the three key projects linked to this site. If you would like to receive updates from the Task Centre Project, Maths300 or Calculating Changes send an email to doug@blackdouglas.com.au:

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In this month's News you will find:

Tasks in Nepal

Tasks of the Month
Task 79, Tangram Teasers
Task 80, A Dollar To Spend
Task 81, Pentagon Triangles
Task 82, Snail Trail

Teaching in Eritrea

Row Points

Game of 31

Price Reductions Maths300 Conference

Thanks New Zealand
Note Paper
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  • Tasks in Nepal
    Now here's an interesting email:
    Dear BD,
    I have just returned from Nepal where I was working in an NGO called Bright Future Community Center. Somebody has donated a Maths Kit to the center. I thought you might be interested to know that the kit is now in Nepal on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
    Isabel Armer
    It's kinda special to wander the world and discover tasks in unexpected places. Couldn't do that with your text book could you?

    Ina Koetsier, our Distribution Manager, tells us the background is:

    We received an email from Wilma Chinnock who was previously Head of Mathematics at Bega Valley Christian College but now retired. She organised purchase of tasks and set up a task centre at the Bega school. Whilst in Kathmandu she visited a 'homework centre' operated by a local Nepali man. An extract of her message informs us:
    I am now retired and have recently been to Nepal where I trekked to Everest Base camp to raise money for the Leprosy Mission in Nepal. Whilst in Kathmandu I visited a "homework centre" set up and operated by a local Nepali man. For approximately 5 years he has been supported with educational materials for literacy by a retired librarian from Trinity Grammar, whom I met whilst in Kathmandu.

    As I looked through the centre, and also conducted some teacher training workshops for local nepali teachers, I realised that the homework centre in Nepal would benefit greatly if I could set up a task centre for them.

    The retire librarian mentioned above is returning with some undergraduate Australian uni students in January so that would be an ideal time for them to take the tasks, set them up in containers, and start using them with the children. We would be looking to cater for lower primary age children.

    We responded by offering her 60 Tasks at a discount rate and we threw in a Professor Morris and a Junior Sampler Manual. This was actually purchased by the Bega Women's Gathering for delivery to Nepal. The rest is history. We offered a special deal, they took it, the tasks were sent and have obviously arrived at their destination. All in a day's work.

  • Tasks of the Month
    Four new cameos this month.
    • Tangram Teasers makes use of the classic 7-piece Tangram puzzle to develop spatial perception and encourage measurement and value relations work.
    • A Dollar To Spend is a little like buying at the shop. The initial questions are reasonably straight forward money calculations. The main challenge is a problem with two conditions that have to be satisfied simultaneously. It also leads to several What if...? questions.
    • Pentagon Triangles provides a surprising range of spatial and number challenges with multiple copies of two isosceles triangles. Properties and language of 2D shapes and the Fibonacci sequence are key elements.
    • Snail Trail can be explored as a logic task, but it grows into an extensive number problem with the possibility of algebraic generalisation.
    Tangram Teasers      A Dollar To Spend
    Pentagon Triangles      Snail Trail
    Click a photo to access its cameo, or access all current cameos through the Link List below.

  • Teaching in Eritrea
    You don't have to be retired to put your educational skills to work in special places. Aaron Peeters wrote a wonderful article for us last year on Menu Maths at Kingsbury Primary School (see Link List below). Aaron is currently in Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa, to use his experience in very different conditions with their Ministry of Education. This email sets the scene. Perhaps we will hear more of the story as time passes. And Aaron, if you see this, best of luck.
    Hi Doug,
    How ya going? I've been quite well. I've also been meaning to email you but the internet is so slow, that I can't access my edumail unless I am at the British Council.

    I am currently waiting for my employment, residence and travel permit to go through. I have been in Asmara for about 3 1/2 weeks now and am looking forward to going to Barentu to begin getting to know people and sussing out the situation there.

    It's a tough job teaching here. Due to the lack of teachers, people are assigned to be teachers as part of their national service. People don't mind, but in some cases it has gone on a lot longer than they expected.

    Notwithstanding this, I have met a couple of brilliant teachers. One in particular named Mattawas, who runs a science club (science in name, school in nature) for about 300 students in his spare time (afternoons and weekends). What's more, he does it all by himself! He has a brilliant system of group work and peer tutoring in place. I've been chatting to him about Maths300 materials and I'm going to come and spend some time with him in my holidays (around June and July) to run some lessons. He is very keen to learn.

    Take it easy and good luck with the maths this year.

    Aaron doesn't expect to be able to access email for much longer, but he has sent his postal address. If any of you would like to stay in contact with him, let me know and I will pass on the address.

  • Row Points
    Lance Rooney and the Grade 6 children at Immaculate Heart of Mary school have had a thought about this task. It has been added to the Task Cameo. See Link List below.

  • Game of 31
    Greg Lee, Rosebud Secondary College, reports that this investigation could 'do your head in'. He has been trying to explore the variations on the task in an organised way and has offered his work to us all in the hope it will be useful in other classes.
    My computer (formatting) skills aren't great but I came up with this table (I like tables) as a sort of summary of the game. The patterns going across are pretty straight forward but going down on the Starter card for a given Game of... seem a bit all over the place. Not sure if its of any value to anyone but I was after some sort of summary for the kids.
    See Link List below.

  • Price Reductions
    It doesn't happen often - how can it when our suppliers regularly increase prices to us? - but in this case Ina Koetsier, Distribution Manager, has been able to pass on a benefit to schools. She struck a very big problem at the end of last year when the UK company that had been making our Plastazote components for 15 years had to close. It was no easy road because the raw material still has to be imported, but we have now found an Australian company that can do everything we want for at least the same price and in fact more cheaply for some items if purchased in bulk. The winners are Poly Plug and Tricubes. See Link List below for prices. Ina has also been able to reduce the price on bulk orders of Pyramid Puzzle, also listed below.

  • Maths300 Conference
    A great opportunity to add a tax deductible component to a visit to the Gold Coast. Judith Selby, Cowra High School and a team of teachers and presenters supported by Curriculum Corporation are planning a conference entitled Successful Students Think for Friday April 17th. Charles Lovitt, Steve Flavel and Matt Skoss are among the presenters. Don't leave it any longer. Now is the time to apply through the application form in the Link List below.

  • Thanks New Zealand
    I have been fortunate enough to spend most of the past two weeks working in New Zealand. The adventure began with the Ministry of Education inviting me to run workshops at its National Numeracy conference. We agreed on sessions titled Learning to Work Like a Mathematician and I presented two secondary and two primary workshops over two days, each one using different examples, then enjoyed visiting the sessions of others for another day. I was blown away by the generous response of the participants. It seems this big picture vision of mathematics education meshes well with where New Zealand is going.

    UC Plus, University of Canterbury, Christchurch arranged another day. This time it was the Maths on the Move (MOTM) title with the same theme. Around 40 teachers from a range of schools had the opportunity to spend a day exploring the principles through hands-on tasks and whole class investigations. They seemed pretty satisfied at the end of the day - even though they were sent away with 'homework' - and I know I felt I had worked with an enthusiastic and professional group.

    Lincoln High School, south of Christchurch, was another great day. This school chose a workshop based around their Maths With Attitude Pattern & Algebra kit. Even though the staff had to attend a morning meeting on school business and we couldn't begin until around 10:30, the team was more than willing to work after hours to make sure we could spend the equivalent of the whole day with the MOTM workshop Working Mathematically in Pattern & Algebra. I am sure Mitchell Howard and the team will have stories to tell us before this year is through.

    So, many thanks to all the Kiwis who welcomed me and looked after me. Hope to see you again soon.

  • Did you miss the December/January News?
    If so you missed information about:
    1. Scottish teachers using Maths With Attitude
    2. Iceberg Information about three Tasks of the Month (Tasks 76, 77 & 78).
    3. An article on setting up a task centre by Marita Miesen.
    4. ...and more...

Keep smiling,

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