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A Sense of History

The first Task Centre workshop was held on July 1st 1992. Therefore on July 1st 2002 the Mathematics Task Centre Project celebrated its first decade ... and began an anniversary year.

We decided to celebrate by telling and retelling stories from schools. This is how the project travelled the first 10 years. There is no more appropriate way to continue the journey. Please enjoy the collection below. The stories are in approximate historic order, but you can access any one in any order using the links.

Students of mathematics education history may find this page a useful reference. Please contact us (see above) if you need further information. Also see the Background section of What is a Task? for a brief summary of landmark moments in the history of mathematics task centres.

Neville at Work
June 2004: Neville de Mestre, founder of the first Task Centre in 1977, working on a new task designed in consultation with Swedish teachers.

Green Line

  • Moments from History
    Extracts from Task Centre Consultants' Newsletters, April 1993 to June 2000.
  • Consultants' Web News
    From October 2001 to March 2002 consultants received their news through their own TC web site. These early editions are at the end of the current News page.
  • News For All
    On the same page, continue to explore history through the news pages written since July 2002 when the Task Centre site reached beyond Consultants' support and became a support for all teachers. This site grew to become a key part of Mathematics Centre, first displaying the new logo on its News page in July 2010.

Green Line

Times Education Supplement

Click the image to read a high resolution version.
The Times Education Supplement of June 3, 1994 ran a half page article (page XV) on the introduction of the Task Centre Project to the first British school.
At the Mereway Middle School in Northampton, which is the first school in England to be using the Task Centre Project materials, all staff have attended a Saturday workshop and are now using the investigative materials in a variety of ways. Allen Andres, and his staff have nothing but praise for the materials, which were introduced to Years 5 to 8 at the beginning of this term.

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Selections from Little Rock, USA

From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Thursday April 10, 1997, pp. 1B & 10B.

A team of Australian educators is helping Little Rock with its math homework.
All this week, Little Rock principals, teachers and parents are meeting with a three-member team of Australian educators to explore how to better use the Australian Task Centre Project materials that teachers got earlier this year. The more than 100 task centers offer problems of varying degrees of difficulty that students work semi-independently to solve.
"We want kids who can think, reason and and communicate," (Charles) Lovitt (one of the Australian team) said. "We must create opportunities for them to learn those skills. These tasks rehearse both basic skills and higher-order thinking skills."

Click each cutting to read a larger size image.

Copyright for this newspaper is held by Little Rock Newspapers Inc.

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Michael Ymer in Little Rock

From Task Centre Consultants' Newsletter, Number 11, November 1997.

In April of this year I had the good fortune to accompany Charles and Doug on a working visit to Little Rock. My job was to offer teachers some of the ideas I have used in the management of a Task Centre session. I provided copies of my own proformas and addressed classroom organisation issues such as recording progress, assessment ideas, storage, timetabling, arrangement of working groups in the classroom and pairing students.

I also led the teachers through a typical lesson, from the clinic to the rotating groups, to the lesson reflection. The idea of presenting a clinic that is open ended received an excellent response as it gave the teachers some ideas for dealing with students of mixed abilities. I think it was important for these teachers to see me as a teacher, just like them, using the Task Centre approach as an integral part of my mathematics program and having success with it. I thoroughly enjoyed my sessions which proved to be a worthwhile ingredient of the Task Centre package. As one teacher mentioned: It's great having these wonderful ideas and materials but they're of little use if I can't manage and organise them in my classroom.

I also had the opportunity to teach Year 4, 5 & 6 children at three different schools. The format of each session was a whole class clinic followed by the opportunity for the children and their teachers to get into the task boxes. Although some of the teachers initially viewed the tasks as 'games', they soon saw the benefits and excitement generated by the activities. At one school the staff members were amazed to see one of their 'behaviour problem' students persevering with 'Tower Of Hanoi' ... and were even more impressed when they were struggling with the problem themselves and were helped through it by the students whom they thought would mess around during the lesson.

All in all many great highlights, from drinking fine wine on the banks of the Mississippi river and being served biggggg meals to listening to Little Rock's answer to Dolly Parton in our hotel lounge. Must do it again some time.

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Thorne Grammar School, Doncaster, UK

From Task Centre Consultants' Newsletter, Number 11, November 1997.

I had met Andy Martin, HOD, at a promotional workshop a couple of years ago which led to him purchasing tasks and inviting Michelle to run our workshop in March 1996. Since I was visiting England in March this year, I dropped in to work with Andy's staff and see how things were developing. He greeted me warmly with the comment: Since the day of the workshop my staff have been talking to each other professionally. I am delighted. When I enquired further I realised that a good part of the credit for that goes to Andy himself. He struck a deal with the staff which provided a wonderful structure for using and learning about the tasks. The plan was simple:

  1. Learn for yourself and use with your class one task per half term. It could be used as a class lesson or stationed at the back of the room for the groups to rotate through.
  2. Write notes for your colleagues about the tasks in line with our agreed headings.
  3. Hand them in to the Head of Department who will word process them into a standard form and distribute them to the staff.
  4. Start a new task the next half term.
And what makes this so brilliant? Well with 8 teachers on the maths staff, each teacher who works on one task receives notes for seven more tasks in return. So, when I visited a year after the Task Centre Project workshop, the faculty dossier contained first drafts of notes for almost 50 tasks which had been tried with their kids by their teachers. No-one felt stressed by the effort and everyone retained their enthusiasm and interest.

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Tim Touzel in South Carolina

From Task Centre Consultants' Newsletter, Number 11, November 1997.

Tim is at Coastal Carolina University in Conway. He bought tasks in May and I received this email in August:

The Task Centre materials have come in very handy and, yes, I do feel much more comfortable with the problems.

My students have created about 30 problems, some of them quite good, although I did let them adapt existing problems, as long as they cited a source. It turned out to be the best graduate class I've ever taught. We did lots of problems. The class doesn't want it to stop. Two in the class were very excited in particular about the TC problems and wanted to do the workshop and buy them for their school, but they couldn't get approval for the funding. Well, I'm continuing the dialogue with them.

The bottom line was a very enjoyable experience, in which I learned in addition to my students.

I warned Tim that he was likely to see his story told in this newsletter and the next email was:
Since you said you wanted to put something in the next newsletter about my class, let me add the best story I could imagine. Coastal's Master's Degree is new and therefore rather small. Because of the paucity of course offerings for secondary majors, I had a secondary biology major and a music major in my course designed for "Problem Solving for the Elementary Grades (K-8)" They both said that the intellectual stimulation and professional growth was so positive and useful that my course should be required (not just suggested) for secondary majors. Moreover, the music teacher was so impressed that she talked her school's curriculum coordinator into inviting me to speak to the whole faculty, not just the math faculty, about problem solving in general. Wow.

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Professional Development Tutorials

From Task Centre Consultants' Newsletter, Number 12, July 1999.

Edlington Hill School in England has supplied us with a new tutorial based model for delivering the Task Centre professional development. The principles of this Edlington Hill model are:

  • It is based around providing a minimum of one hour's intensive tutorial for each staff member and allowing them to do other things in the day.
  • In return for this provision of time, teachers agree to a 20 - 30 minute before school whole staff session and a 60 - 90 minute after school whole staff session.
  • There are four tutorial sessions in the day.
  • The before school session is a scene setter:
    - brief history/background to promote the feeling of being part of an extensive world wide educational movement
    - a few images of what others have done with the resource to begin thought about 'what we could do'.
  • The after school session has four parts:
    - a poster problem clinic
    - a task explored together in depth to draw together the key principles of (a) Working Mathematically (b) a task is a tip of an iceberg (c) the three lives of a task which have been involved in the tutorials.
    - a visit to the web site and information about networking.
    - a summarising look at 'Where to from here?' (see below)
  • In the tutorial session the staff are paired in Problem Solving teams which are chosen in advance by the school. Two pairs is sufficient to handle if staff are to receive the intended intensive support. So, with four sessions in the day, a maximum of 16 staff can be supported. Of course parents could be included in some of the teams.
  • Choose a different straight forward task for each tutorial group. It doesn't take long to work through this first task and then get into a discussion of the iceberg. Once 'eyes are opened' raise the need for recording some of 'our discussion' so that other staff, who explore different tasks, can benefit.
  • Discuss headings to write to and information which would support colleagues. Then the P/S team write their draft dossier notes. Collect these for later.
  • The team then tackles a second task, as on the card, asks themselves about the iceberg (with the tutor's help if necessary) and writes notes about it. If this task isn't finished before the session is up, it is voluntarily finished for 'homework'. If this second one is finished, a third is offered to take away and work on.

The advantages of this model appear to be:

  • informal and non-threatening
  • respects demands on teachers' time
  • intensive, personal contact
  • establishes staff teams with an expectation that they continue
  • structures personal commitment as a necessity for school success
  • promotes recording and collecting of classroom wisdom

Where to from here?

  1. Encourage the problem solving teams to continue to meet, try and record.
  2. Encourage all staff to explore tasks with kids according to whatever structure is appropriate for a trial period in that school.
  3. Suggest that a Curriculum Review Committee may have to be established later to seek a vision for structured inclusion of what is learned through exploration. This includes looking at assessment information which can derive from task use and responsibility for initiating new staff.
  4. Ask for volunteers to take on these roles:
    Dossier co-ordinator: to collect the draft notes, arrange word processing and publish in an appropriate form. Some schools are now publishing such notes on their server.
    Materials co-ordinator: who is responsible for knowing the whereabouts of any task at any time and for keeping the equipment complete.
    Network Co-ordinator: who regularly delves into the web site(s) to gather support information and deliver it to staff in the appropriate supportive manner.

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Englewood Herald, Colorado, USA

Englewood Herald September 1, 2000, page 3. Englewood is a district of Denver.

Click the image to read a high resolution version of the full article.
This is the most fun math workshop I've ever attended, Peggy Sneed, Maddox kindergarten teacher said, I like it because they don't tell you what you have to do, you have to figure it out. It's a challenge for the teachers as well as the students. I think this is an exciting program and it'll be fun for the kids because it's hands-on with a lot of possible solutions.
Veteran teacher Judy Cain agreed. I am impressed and I really like these programs, she said. I like the idea that it will be a challenge to the students to find different ways to solve the problem and I like it that you have everything you need and all the information to help you use it right at your finger tips.

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Activity in Englewood, USA

Following involvement in a summer course in Australia that was jointly organised by Australian Catholic University and Plymouth State College, New Hampshire, Bob Seckman returned to his district in Denver and suggested that all the teachers should be sent to Australia for the course. Sally Collins, the creative Math Curriculum Co-ordinator of the district decided instead to bring the Task Centre materials and workshop to the district. Some time later she wrote a long letter about Englewood's small successes with regards to the Task Centre Project. Here is an excerpt:
Marnie Knapp, a 4th grade teacher at Maddox, was so excited, and surprised, at her students enthusiasm for one of the tasks. She puts two tasks per week at a center, and the students rotate through the centers. Every Friday, she takes one of the tasks and works through it with the class. They were working on A Dollar to Spend when the bell rang, and they were not able to finish it. Several students came back on Monday excited to share the answer they had worked out at home with their parents. She says she has never had a problem, especially one that was not assigned, that students voluntarily worked on outside of class, and also included their parents in the process!

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From Depths to Heights

We recently ran a workshop day for the Marree Aboriginal School just a 'country mile' from the shores of Lake Eyre on the edge of Outback Australia. This school is probably close to the lowest altitude in the world. Have we supported teachers at the highest altitude school in the world? Well, not with the Task Centre project, but we must have come close with our Calculating Changes project when our consultant was invited to work with the three schools in Leadville, USA, way up at the top of the Rocky Mountains.

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Self-funded Task Centre

Michael Nokes (Riverton District High School, South Australia) and his staff wanted a task centre so much that every night after school they filled an Esky with cans of drink and chocolate bars and stood at the school bus stop selling them to students as they waited to go home.
This task centre has been a dream for a long time. ... Finally ... we decided to fund raise for it. Two terms of selling chocolates and chips and drinks and we made it to half way. The finance committee appreciated the effort and provided the rest.

So, a pipe dream will become a reality soon. At long last we can get those Year 8 students interested and not totally bored by the text book.

At the workshop day, Michael invited the school principal, a former maths teacher, to make the closing remarks. It seems the principal had intended to come in the morning 'for appearances' and then quietly disappear to complete the overdue school triennial report. He remarked that he changed his mind after the first 20 minutes of the workshop and decided to stay all day because he found it so professionally stimulating.

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Moments from History

From editions of the Task Centre Consultants' Newsletter, which has been superseded by this site. The author/editor of these newsletters was Doug Williams.
  • Number 1, April 1993

    Charles is in the States at the moment (Silly man. Fancy leaving me in charge of this thing!). He left with ten task centre orders and has recently run a Sunday workshop for the schools in the South Carolina district which ordered them.

  • Number 2, January 1994

    We have serviced over 100 clients during 1993 with about one third of those including workshops. This acceptance of the project by schools is due in part to its 'from teachers for teachers' component. The materials are seen as fulfilling part of the concrete problem solving aspect of the curriculum which schools are seeking. The workshop is recognised as a vital instrument for refocussing a staff's energy and enthusiasm for improving teaching and learning throughout their mathematics curriculum.

    The Task Centre Project For Aboriginal Schools
    We have been working with a group of teachers from Northern Territory for over a year to develop a set of tasks appropriate to these remote, culturally different schools. That work culminated in a Darwin conference in November, from which I brought back a couple of months work writing up tasks, Task Notes and Teachers' Handbook. That work is almost complete. The result is very exciting, both in terms of the materials, which are A4 and decorated with borders designed by some of the Aboriginal children, and the realisation by the teachers on course that the materials should not be supplied to any school without some form of in-service. As a result, they are designing their own programme based on the way we have worked with them.

  • Number 3, July 1994

    Kids In The Workshop?
    You might like to consider it. Ken Preece tells us that in a TC cluster workshop he ran, the organiser (Keith Hartmann, who has since become a TC consultant) suggested that some of his brighter students (Year 6/7) could help the lone staff member from one of the participating schools to solve and prepare the tasks. Everyone agreed it was worth a try. Ken says they were a terrific help. Although some of the latter part of the afternoon was a little outside their expertise, they stayed for the 'show and tell' session and presented as lucidly as any of the staff present.

    Workshop Homework?
    We have been told that one school completed the preparation of its tasks by holding a parent/family night with homework. The curriculum evening introduced parents to the concept through an 'Eric The Sheep' type experience and followed this with some time on tasks already prepared. Families were then asked to work through unprepared tasks and make notes under headings that the teachers had chosen for their task notes. To close the evening, families were given the opportunity (purely voluntary) to take other tasks home to prepare together as a family in the same way. Many families agreed and over the next week or so all the tasks were ready for use in the curriculum.

    Workshop Evaluation
    Rick Bowman has designed an evaluation sheet to use at the end of his workshops. (An adapted) version will be included in future Consultants' Kits. There is no compulsion to use it, but if everyone isn't exhausted, you could get some useful feedback. Rick did.

    Overseas Markets
    ... the trip to the UK has resulted in two demonstration schools being established and two consultants being trained. I was also able to complete business arrangements with our agent, DIME Projects, and run workshops at several conferences and meetings.
    ... Charles will be returning to the US soon as part of his overall role with CC and is excited by requests to base some extensive PD programs around task centres.

  • Number 4, October 1994

    The main purpose of this newsletter is to inform you of the inputs to, and outcomes of, the Consultants' Meeting held on September 19th. I think it was originally Pam Macklin's idea to try to get us together and I thank her for that, because it was a great opportunity for people to share their experiences and ideas. When the end of the day arrived, there was still more we could have talked about. Another meeting will have to happen. Perhaps to coincide with the visit of Michelle Selinger (our chief UK consultant) in April next year.
    In addition to several Victorian consultants, Vin Sharkey was able to come down from NSW. Sue Davis was able to join us for the day to meet many of us for the first time, and Geoff Giles and Bet Sampson, our agents from the UK, were also present. Key CC office staff were able to drop in and expand their understanding of the growing web which is this project, and CC Curriculum Manager, Bruce Wilson, was also able to pay a visit.
    It was rewarding to hear Bruce refer to the evolution of the Task Centre Project model as an emblem for possible CC developments in other areas.
    The CC board has come to recognise that much of the vitality and validity of this project exists because it comes from teachers and is delivered to teachers through teachers such as yourselves. Thank you once again for your interest and involvement which has brought us to where we are. We look forward to further exploring this rich educational environment with you.

    Other key moments from this meeting were:

    • All consultants commented on how valuable it is to use a 'whole class' task in the first half hour of the (workshop) day. Involving the participants by modelling what is possible with students seems to be a powerful way of focusing teachers' enthusiasm.
    • ... acting out as part of the 'lesson', and the physical involvement of the teachers seems to be another important contributing factor to both 'breaking the ice' and helping teachers capture a vision of problem solving pedagogy.
    • Charles presented a new (task) called Triangle Area which is now a better task than it was as a result of joint suggestion and discussion.
    • Geoff took us through his new publication Algebra Through Geometry which will be available in Australia by next year. We all wanted a copy. It is an elegant introduction to secondary school algebra through Tak Tiles, a product which Geoff first developed nearly twenty years ago as a spatial puzzle for young children. Geoff has given his blessing to designing tasks based on the concepts and material.
    • The task as a 'Tip Of An Iceberg' is a message to which teachers enthusiastically respond.
    • Down play the importance of labelling the tasks easy/medium/hard if the discussion of this begins to get involved. The best way to make an assessment is to use the tasks with the students for a while. The placement of stickers can always be changed.
    • Consider involving children in elements of the workshop, eg: helping to solve the tasks and presenting their favourite task.
    • During a maths week children can make poster problems for the problem solving clinic.
    • Build up a solution book with the students' help.
    • Who Owns The Monkey, which has recently been revised, was originally submitted to Lucy's task centre collection by a Year 7 student. That student is now sitting for Year 12.
    • Some tasks make great assessment tasks.
    • Some consultants have been in situations where the school has issued a Participation Certificate for the workshop and suggested that we include one in the Workshop Leaders' kit.

  • Number 5, April 1995

    Working Mathematically
    First inclusion of the Working Mathematically process as a reproducible page for consultants. (See Working Mathematically for the current form.) Given that developments since 1995 have shown so clearly that numeracy and literacy can develop hand in hand through the integrated use of tasks, it is a bit prophetic that this process was introduced with these words.

    I found it very interesting explaining this overhead to a journalist recently. She stopped me before I had finished with a comment like:
    I understand this because it is the same way I write my stories. I go out to a context where I gather data. I come back to the office and organise it to look for a theme. That's like looking for a pattern isn't it? Sometimes I offer a theory to explain the data and ....
    It seems that Working Mathematically and Working Journalistically have a lot in common.
    Teachers seem to sense that the process described not only offers a raison d'etre for mathematics, which they are seeking, but can be the basis of discussion across disciplines.
    A draft version of a Working Mathematically Curriculum document was also included in this newsletter.

    Demonstration School - Scotland
    We now have a task centre operating in the stark beauty of the Scottish Highlands, thanks to the forward thinking of Margaret Robertson, the adviser for Argyll and Bute, and the staff and administration of Lochgilphead High School.
    LHS has a small staff and the task of working through all 100 problems would have been difficult without the assistance of visiting staff from primary and secondary schools, parents and four Year 7 (Secondary 1) students. The young people stayed all day (despite being given opportunity to leave during the discussion time) and participated with insight. They made sensible suggestions about how the material could be used and maintained.
    Margaret was trained as a consultant (welcome to the team Margaret) and is looking forward to encouraging other schools in the region to come on board.

    (W)e could all learn a lot from Margaret's region. Schools are physically separated by mountains, valleys and lochs, but are all linked electronically using a program called FirstClass in a project sponsored by British Telecom. They exchange worksheets, conference on line and pass on student records in a way that I have not seen so extensively here.
    ... Perhaps we should think about a Task Centre Internet Bulletin Board.

    Library Project
    Interest in the tasks in Little Rock Arkansas has generated what Charles is now calling the Library Project. This district has asked for 20 tasks to be placed in each primary and secondary school library for home borrowing - Maths Around The Kitchen Table. As a result, Charles has chosen specific tasks and prepared Parent Guidance Cards to be included with the normal task. This is a very exciting outgrowth and one which will become a part of the service offered worldwide.

  • Number 6, July 1995

    • The materials and Introductory Workshop have been the focus of another transition project which began last year and is supported by NPDP (National Professional Development Project) funding. This group, in Lilydale, Victoria, have used the tasks to focus discussion of both pedagogy and content through Years 5 - 8. They have been refunded this year and have begun planning to use their consultant to help plan units of work which integrate the tasks.
    • Tim Touzel who was on exchange to Deakin University (Warrnambool) joined us for both the Task Centre tour and the Consultants' meeting in May. He has since been trained as a consultant and has returned to South Carolina to continue spreading the word in an area where Charles has already made great contacts. Welcome aboard Tim.
    • We haven't gone too far with the thoughts about an electronic task centre connection through Internet facilities, but if you belong to eWorld, which is the Apple on-line equivalent, you will find the last Clients' Newsletter available for downloading in the Learning Center. (eWorld no longer exists, but we were in there at the start of the electronic information revolution.)

  • Number 7, September 1995

    New Products

    • The Library Lending Kit for primary is up and running and the post-primary one is nearing completion.
    • The Pattern & Algebra Replacement Unit is now available in a form which might be described as 'polished draft'. Again, there is a flier enclosed. This exciting new concept uses a set of tasks as the core and is supported by extensive notes and copiable worksheets which lead students into investigating beyond the tip of the iceberg.

  • Number 8, March 1996

    Our project continues to grow, and in part that is due to the good work you do in workshops and beyond. We are grateful. It is rewarding to feel part of a network which is creating broad opportunities for better mathematics learning. It is exciting to know that all the ideas within the project have grown from the classrooms of great teachers.
    The new home page is an example in point. When you get a chance, log in to:
    (Note: This address became Through 2008/9 we worked with MAV - Mathematical Association of Victoria - to bring this material to the Mathematics Task Centre site.)

    International Opportunities
    It was visiting task centre classrooms when he was in Australia which stimulated Andrejs Dunkels, a Swedish educator to invite me to Sweden to spread information about the Task Centre Project through talks at the biennial conference and visits to teacher training universities. There are now two Swedish universities which have task centre kits and there is a bubbling interest in the project throughout the country.
    We would also hope that interest in the USA will continue to increase through an opportunity to present a small session as part of a one day Australian mini-conference within the NCTM meeting in San Diego in April. We will also be working in Little Rock, Arkansas in the week prior to the conference.
    In the UK we had sales to Scotland in January and I will be working with Scottish consultants at the end of March. Michelle Selinger, our chief UK consultant is also booked for a workshop package in an English school at the beginning of May.
    Orders from New Zealand are slowly increasing and we have recently sold kits to International Schools in Papua New Guinea and Singapore.
    It is only a small international interest, but it is genuine and it does result from the dedicated work of Australian teachers over many years. All Australian teachers have a right to feel proud of what we have to offer the world in mathematics education.

  • Number 9, September 1996

    Interesting Figures
    As of the end of August 675 schools in Australia had become clients in some way and many of these have ordered on more than one occasion. That is better than 1 in 20 Australian schools. In total, worldwide, we have placed more than 75,000 tasks and the overseas component of that is also growing. We have some 55 overseas clients to date, but this figure is deceptive. Many of those clients are district offices purchasing for several schools, so there are at least twice that number of overseas schools involved in our project.

    Interesting Initiatives

    • As you read this Charles and I will be preparing to travel to Little Rock, Arkansas, where the school district has invited us to spend a week training key staff from every Elementary and Middle school in the district. That is 43 schools in total.
    • On the home front the number of people able to offer the Task Centre Project workshops in either a freelance capacity or as part of their advisory role in a district has expanded considerably. We now have 91 consultants across the country. Much of this growth has come through the insight of Queensland Education Department districts which have arranged training programs with us for all their mathematics advisers.
    • In a different direction, Rhonda Eggerling, Mathematics Adviser at Geebung School Support Centre in Brisbane, has arranged funding through National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Program (Metropolitan East Region) to develop a Queensland Task Centre Project for Aboriginal Students. A clear vision for the project has been developed and trialing has begun. We will keep you informed.

    'Three Lives Of A Task'
    In recent work with teachers the phrase 'Three Lives Of A Task' has emerged as a curriculum planning signpost. Teachers have discovered that many tasks can be adapted to three main purposes:

    • an activity for two students, as on the card
    • a whole class activity
    • an extended investigation for an individual or small group

    Additional Overseas Action

    • In March I spent a day teaching in Inveralmond Community School outside Edinburgh to demonstrate some of the uses of the tasks they had already bought. The staff were very excited by the students' responses. I also visited Oban High School on the West Coast of Scotland which had purchased a kit based on its success 'down the road' at Lochgilphead High School.
    • In April, a small session on the project was presented at the 23,000 strong conference of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in San Diego. This was part of a very successful showcase of Australian mathematics education.
    • In May, Michelle Selinger, Chief UK consultant for the project, delivered the introductory workshop to Thorne Grammar School, near Doncaster, in England. Andy Martin, the Head of Department was thrilled. He commented that there were some 16 other schools in the area which were watching to see how the task centre use developed. We look forward to hearing how things develop at Thorne in their new academic year.
    • In June, Marj Horne and Ulla Öberg presented a day and a half session on task centres at a conference in Sweden. Marj is from the Australian Catholic University and is a consultant for the project. Ulla has established a task centre based on project materials at her university in Malmö. Marj comments:
      We had about 22 people in a workshop for five 75 minute sessions. We did most of the basic workshop followed by the algebra replacement unit. One of the committee who was a 10-12 teacher came to the first part of the algebra workshop. I gave her group the Jumping Kangaroos. Two hours later, still working on the same problem, she was convinced of the depth of mathematics and the access the task gave to the iceberg as well as the motivational aspects - after all she stuck at it for that time and cut short her coffee break considerably. The people involved in the workshop were all really happy.
    Replacement Units
    This concept of introducing or extending task use by replacing three weeks of the regular curriculum with a balance of hands-on activities, class lessons and extended investigations has proved very popular since its introduction at the end of '95. Almost 200 units have been sold and many workshops have been run based on the concept.

    Working With The Web Page
    The project has become conscious that as more is learnt about particular tasks it will not necessarily be in a position to publish that information in print form. So, in conjunction with Andy Wain who manages the Problem Solving Task Centre Page there will soon be a section in which both the project and you can publish new learning about tasks themselves and ways of making use of them. Hopefully this will be up and running by the end of the term, so check it out.
    (Note: This was where ideas which eventually became Maths300 were starting to develop.)

  • Number 10, March 1997

    Would you believe that in the last four years teachers have endorsed the educative value of this project to the extent of placing 100,000 tasks in 1000 schools around the world? About 800 of those contacts have been in Australia, but we certainly feel the 200 overseas clients are significant. For example, in February two cartons of 100 tasks were sent to Scotland. One carton will be shared among two schools and the staff from these have booked our professional development program.
    We also had a visit from two enthusiastic Swedish teachers who funded their own trip to Australia just to see task centres in action. They have already set up their school with materials and have had some in-service. They just wanted to explore a few more management ideas at the source.

    New Prices
    The new prices have been listed on the home page for some time. Thanks to the wonderful co-operation of Andy Wain, the manager, who has taken on this role on top of a full teaching load, it is easier to change items on this page than to organise a mailing to all consultants. So, as a rule the latest news will be on the home page. Therefore it is a good idea to keep in touch with that source. Newsletters will still arrive from time to time, but they may be a little behind the latest news.

    New Products
    At long last, the Replacement Units in Computation and Chance & Data are available.

    Sharing Experiences
    This entire project is built on sharing experiences. All the tasks have grown out of classroom experience and all the PD components are a synthesis of experiences of many people. I would be happy to receive long and short contributions to this section of our newsletter. Some I have come across are listed below: Questions - Marj Horne

    • One of the things Marj likes to suggest during her workshop is that students be encouraged to write questions about the task for others to answer. Once checked by the teacher, these are kept in the box. It will also be necessary for the teacher to explore with the children what makes a good question. This will include identifying those elements of a problem which can be varied.
    • Another suggestion relates to the Hearts & Loops puzzle. Once someone has solved it, it becomes their task to teach someone else by keeping their hands behind their back and only asking questions.

  • Number 11, November 1997

    Task Centre Project For Aboriginal & Islander Students
    This project has been about developing a set of tasks which have 'proven themselves' in the hands of teachers of Aboriginal and Islander students in Queensland. The prime mover for the project was Rhonda Eggerling, one of our Brisbane consultants. She obtained support and funding from the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Education Program and administrative support from the Metropolitan East Region of the Queensland Department of Education. A team of teachers and district consultants then worked with students to adapt, modify and extend the work of the Northern Territory teachers who developed the first kit for Aboriginal students in 1993.

    The result is excellent. The chosen tasks are very rich; the artwork supplied by the students (who were guided by an Aboriginal artist) is delightful; and the stories it has to tell are uplifting. The focal story will soon appear on our web page in the new section for the Task Centre Project for Aboriginal Students.
    (Note: This information, and all that has developed since, can be accessed through the Indigenous Students link.)

    In truth, if I was setting up a task centre on a budget, I would start with this kit because of the content; the support notes; the presentation; the packing; and the coincidence that the project advisers happen to have chosen all the tasks which are needed to be able to also use Task Centre Computer Lessons disc 1.
    (Note: This product became the first 6 lessons on the Maths300 site.)

  • Number 12, July 1999

    Curriculum Corporation and The Task Centre Collective are working on a new web site which will eventually mount the best 300 maths lessons (K - 12) that we can find. About one third of these will be supported by software. All will be in the supportive MCTP style with full lesson notes. Worksheets and game boards will be provided if necessary. Schools will be able to access these lessons by subscribing and being issued with a membership number.
    (Note: This site, titled Maths300, began in January 2000 with 25 lessons and has been growing steadily ever since. About half of the lessons are developed from the whole class investigation life of our hands-on problem solving tasks.)

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  • Number 13, June 2000

    Currently we have reached about 1700 schools in around ten countries. Something like 200,000 tasks have been placed in these schools, simply because teachers believe that using them can improve students' learning. This has certainly proved so for many students, however we make no claim other than having tried to support teachers who have first wanted to make changes to their curriculum. Changes for students are always due to teachers' insights, determination to continue learning how to teach and hard work.

    New (and used) Products
    The advent of Maths300 (see below) has caused us to change direction with the software related Task Centre products. Maths300 is a much better way to deliver the software and the client gets so much more for the one price. As a result, Task Centre Computer Lessons and Estimating Fractions: Computer Challenges have been withdrawn, but are available through Maths300.

    The new products are:

    • Working Mathematically Curriculum Pack
    • Task Centre Starter Kit
    • Fractions In Action
    Remember, the Problem Solving Task Centre (PSTC) web site is always the best place to find up-to-date information on all aspects of the project. Andy Wain has done a great redesign job that includes the livery of the Mathematical Association of Victoria.

    Andy Martin, Task Centre Project Officer for UK has had an article on Mathematics Task Centres published in the March 2000 issue of Mathematics In Schools, the respected journal of the Mathematical Association in UK. A second article has been accepted for an imminent issue and a third article is being drafted. Well done Andy.

    A considerable amount of our energy in the first few months of this year has been directed at launching the Maths300 Project. ... The purpose of this site is simple - to mount the 300 most interesting maths lessons we can find to promote discussion about what makes better maths learning.

    New Tasks
    Since the last newsletter we have developed several new tasks. In the catalogue they are:

    1. Rectangle Fractions
    2. Rod Mats
    3. Make The Whole
    4. Decimals With A Tape
    5. Peg & Tape Fractions
    6. Intersections
    7. Triangle Perimeters
    8. Cube Numbers
    9. Pattern Cube
    10. Division Boxes
    11. Soft Drink Crates
    12. Monkeys & Bananas
    13. Chains
    14. Angle Estimation
    15. Take Away Tiles
    As usual, if you have visited the web site recently, you will already know about these.

    New Evidence
    Have you ever been asked for evidence that problem solving through hands-on materials actually improves performance in mathematics? If you didn't believe it you wouldn't be using tasks in your teaching, however, sometimes something more than a statement of faith is required. Quite forceful evidence has been gathered by the INISSS (Improving Numeracy for Indigenous Students in Secondary Schools) Project in Tasmania. You can find details on the PSTC web site (follow the link to Tasks and Indigenous Students).
    (Note: All this information and more can now be accessed through the Indigenous Students link.)

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