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The Teacher Tip

Find Rich Mathematical Tasks

July 9, 2018

Adapted from Minds on Mathematics: Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding in Grades 4-8, by Wendy Ward Hoffer

In order for students’ mathematical experiences to challenge them and catalyze their understanding, we need to provide some evocative material for learners to think about—this is why juicy problems are central to a minds-on math workshop. It can be challenging to create or find such problems, but our responsibility as teachers is to prioritize and find ways to capitalize on the tasks of high cognitive demand that do appear in our curricula.

Try this: Often high cognitive demand tasks can be found at the very end of textbook chapters, and sometimes in extension activities: multilayered real-world problems and similarly rich tasks. Take a peek into the end of your book’s chapters or the sidebars of your teacher’s materials and pluck these tasks out, featuring them front and center.

Even if students are not quite ready to solve these juicy problems at the get-go, the problems themselves create a “need to know” that makes the entire unit’s content relevant.

To learn more about Minds on Mathematics and to download a sample chapter, visit

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