Problem Solving
Task Centre

Sample Articles

For 15 years, beginning long before school-based use of the Internet, Michael Richards, a secondary mathematics teacher dedicated to using hands-on tasks in his classrooms, built a network which allowed like-minded teachers from across the country, and eventually from across the world, to communicate with each other about their inspirations, successes, frustrations and challenges.

Twice a year Michael produced a Problem Solving Task Centre Newsletter headed by the drawing opposite. The articles listed appeared in the October 1996 edition of the Newsletter.

In the geographical distance between their sources, one at the north and one at the south of the continent, they reflect the diversity Michael was able to gather around him. Over time, the Newsletter included articles from Task Centre teachers in England, New Zealand, Sweden and many other places and also had regular contributions from Curriculum Corporation.

It was the first international communication tool of Task Centre teachers and when the Mathematical Association of Victoria invited Andy Wain, another secondary teacher committed to using tasks, to be its first Web Master, Michael and Andy complemented each other's work supporting a strong core of teachers dedicated to an alternative approach to mathematics education.

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Arnhem Land Task Centre ... Faye Peattie


Gunbalanya CEC is an Aboriginal community school in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. It has an enrolment of about 250 students from pre-school to post-primary levels. It is also the 'hub' school servicing 5 outstation schools. English is a second language for all students. The school is not bilingual so English is the language of instruction. Classes are not graded but the children are grouped according to age levels.


The Activity Centre is in no way intended to replace good classroom programs but rather to enhance and support the work of the class teacher.


I found a set of the '60 Maths Tasks for Aboriginal schools' and thought this would make a great starting point. However on closer inspection I found that these tasks still contained too much language for our students to be able to use them independently. The hunt was on! Activities were found from wide variety of sources and these were then rewritten using as little language as possible.


The task shown is a sample of those I have adapted.

  • Activities are stored in individual bags which hang on a rack converted from an old mobile blackboard frame.
  • Also used are commercially produced games - hence the term 'Activity' rather than 'Task' Centre.
  • So far, half of each primary class works in the centre at each time.
  • All children spend 45 minutes there each week.
  • At the moment a limited number of activities per session (4 or 5) are chosen. Each activity is carefully explained and demonstrated before the students choose a task.
  • I recently conducted an inservice for the Outstation Aboriginal Assessment teachers. I was pleased that these non-trained teachers were able to interpret and use the tasks.
Commercial games used include Snakes & Ladders (good for number recognition, directional movement, one-to-one correspondence and counting on with the younger students). Whole class simulations such as Crossing The River are also employed.
  You Need
Numbers 1 - 8

To Play
Place the numbers 1 to 8 in the spaces so that each sum is correct.



I keep a card file to make anecdotal notes on 3 or 4 children each session. Another useful assessment tool has been the use of peer teaching. At this time there has not been emphasis placed on student recording.


I have asked teachers to provide written feedback and the results have been very positive. This will be done at the end of each term to ensure that planning fits the needs of the students. It also allows input from all the staff so that the Activity Centre is owned by the whole school community.


  1. To aim for more independent reading and interpretation of activities.
  2. To encourage more recording of tasks.
  3. To continue to expand the range of activities available to students, and to ensure all strands of the Maths curriculum are included.
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Letter from Kangaroo Island ... Annette Johnston

Dear Michael,

The junior primary teachers in my schools have said that they would like more tasks which are more suitable for their students but I feel somewhat inadequate to provide them being a senior secondary teacher in the main.

I certainly have enjoyed roving around the Task Centre site on the web - is to be congratulated on a great job! Several of the ideas I found there have been added to our task centre already and more will follow.

The very last of the Country Areas Program which set up our Island task Centre was spent buying the Pattern & Algebra Replacement Units from the Task Centre Project. I am most impressed with these and think that having a unit structure with support materials will encourage some of our teachers who have been reluctant to use the tasks, to give it a go.


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