Math Tasks: Help your Students become Math Explorers!

I love using math tasks in the classroom and I think you will too!  This is part 2 in my Math Tasks Blog Series.  If you haven’t seen Part 1…make sure you check it out first!!!

In Part 1, we learned all about math tasks and the benefits of using them in your classroom.  In this post, we will focus on the structure of math tasks and I hope you keep reading to end because there is a math tasks student helper freebie just for you!!! So let’s jump right in!

What is the structure of a math task?

A math task consists of three parts.  They are the launch phase, explore phase, and share phase.  Depending on the level of the task, it can range anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.  These three phrases make math tasks very engaging and fun for all students.  In future blog posts in this series, we will explore each part of a task in-depth.

3 Parts of a Math Task

Below you will get a more in-depth look at a math task and how each part looks using the following task as an example.

The Task

Angel and Ben are brothers.  They love to eat apples after school.  Angel put five apples in the basket.  Ben put seven apples in the basket.  

A) How many apples did Angel and Ben put in the basket?

B) Who ate the most apples?  Draw a model to explain your answer.

1. Launch Phase (Approx 10 min)

The task launch will help students to understand the context of a problem and will pose a mathematical challenge for students.  Connecting to students own lives will help to eliminate learning barriers.  For example, we use a lot of visuals at my school because we have a high ELL student population.  If we are solving a problem about rabbits, it is important for students to develop some context and vocabulary to help them be able to focus on the math.   

An Example of the Launch Phase 

You can use a picture visual to launch the task.  A visual launch is just one of the many ways to present the task to students.  Students will have time to look at the visual, ask questions, and tell what they see.  This is a fun and engaging way to hook your students.  See the example below!

What to Do: 

I would display a graphic like the one below that is related to the problem.  Ask students What do you see?  What do you wonder?  Tell me about the picture. What questions do you have? etc. 

Students may say things like I see apples.  I notice apples in the basket.  I wonder how many apples are in the basket.  Who do the apples belong to?  I like to record the answers in a t-chart labeled notice and wonder. After you have hooked them, you can now present the task.

2. Explore Phase

The explore phase allows students the ability to solve problems using their own strategies learned from previous grades and from current instruction.  This is usually done in small groups and students can use various manipulatives.  Advancing and assessing questions are being asked during this phase as the teacher circulates to groups or partners.  

What to Do

Allow students a few minutes to work on the task independently. Then allow students to work in small groups and share their strategies with their team.  They can compare solutions and have math discourse about the task.  As they work, make sure to circulate and prompt them with questioning to check for understanding.  During this time you are also picking students to share during the share phase.  Make sure to order them the easiest solution to the most complex.  You can work with a group if you need to during this time like the picture below.

3. Share Phase

The share phase is a whole class discussion where students can present their thinking and strategies to the class.  Students can compare solutions and talk about misconceptions.  This phase allows students to see that there may be one answer to a problem but there are a variety of ways to get to the answer.  Always remember the quote below.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the three parts of math tasks and are able to get started with letting your students explore math concepts.  

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