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Rich Tasks

June 2, 2011

How can we move students forward from the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy such as recall to the higher levels such as analysis?  Or to encourage deep rather than surface learning.  Deep and Surface are two approaches to study, derived from original empirical research by Marton and Saljo(1976)  and since elaborated by Ramsden (1992), Biggs (1987, 1993) and Entwistle (1981), among others.  Deep learners will examine new facts and ideas critically, and tie them into existing cognitive structures and make numerous links between ideas.  Surface learners will accept new facts and ideas uncritically and attempt to store them as isolated, unconnected, items.

One school of thought is to use rich tasks.  Rich tasks

  • Are accessible and extendable.
  • Allow individuals to make decisions.
  • Involve learners in testing, proving, explaining, reflecting and interpreting.
  • Promote discussion and communication.
  • Encourage originality and invention.
  • Encourage “what if?” and “what if not?” questions.
  • Are enjoyable and contain opportunity to surprise.

(Ahmed A., Better Mathematics: a curriculum development study. London (1987): HMSO 104)

Nrich has extensive resources including articles discussing the nature of rich tasks.
Their curriculum mapping documents provide a helpful way for teachers to find resources. Also note the Nrich Packages, these include a set of tasks on working systematically and the Nrich poster collection (scroll down to the bottom of the poster collection page to download the collection as a PowerPoint presentation).

The Nuffield AMP Investigations are designed to teach and assess key mathematical processes. Each task has detailed teacher notes.

New Bowland shorter assessment tasks include worksheets, notes and an optional presentation in three different formats, Word, pdf or PowerPoint.

From AQA comes an outstanding resource which includes numerous problems. Click the resources tab then look for the Additional Maths – Problem Solving Questions & Teachers’ Guide.

From OCR see Investigations for GCSE Mathematics and their A03 Guide.

Jon Stratford’s Rich Maths Tasks site has extensive resources, note the Key Processes under Pedagogy includes cards to download in pupil speak


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