Saturday, July 6, 2013

Minds on Math Workshop-Chapter 3 "Tasks"

Minds on Mathematics Book Study
If this is your first time joining our book study please click on the button above and it will link to all previous posts.  Feel free to go back and add a link to any previous chapters.  You can link up your post on chapter 3 at the bottom of this post.  Please visit the other bloggers who have linked up below and leave them comments.  Lots of great ideas are being posted!

One thing about this chapter that perplexed me was the opening story about 7th graders rolling two dice to get the product and see if they were odd or even.  I am wondering if that was a typo because it seems more like a 2nd or 3rd grade task.  Did anyone else find that example to be odd for a 7th grade classroom?

This chapter was interesting for me because I feel like we have a very rigorous curriculum with deep and challenging tasks.  I have seen personally that you really have to have multiple entry points when you have a class full of diverse students with different ability levels and background knowledge.  I found these tasks worked so well in my accelerated math class, but were much more of a challenge for students and myself in my regular math classes.  All students do need to have access to these rich tasks so it's a matter of figuring out how give students the tools to be able to understand these challenging tasks.  I am looking forward to future chapters that will address these issues of how to use modeling, classroom discourse, and reflection to help with scaffolding these types of problems.

For those of you that do not have a strong curriculum with challenging tasks there are so many free resources available to you online.  You can check out my CCSS Pinterest board for links to many free common core resources where you will find challenging tasks.


  1. I found the statement, "This shift from pursuing content coverage to seeking student understanding is a critical change we must make in our beliefs about math instruction", to be very insightful. I think many educators feel that if we only cover one problem in an entire class period, we must've done something wrong. We've been taught that kids need multiple exposures to a concept in order for it to sink in. These two ideas don't always go together. I believe that these rich problem, taught through the practice standards, can build on each other so that the students will experience similar situations and build their opportunities for success. Several years ago I took a class that was incredible and we were given many rich problems that took all hour. I used these problems with my advanced class and my regular classes. Each problem was different, but many of the problem required the students to draw a picture, make a table, find a pattern, play with manipulatives, etc. The students got better and better at looking for one of those situations so that they could enter the problem. In the beginning, I had to teach them the strategies and tell them which one to use. I provided the tables and headings. As the year progressed, they could do more and more and I could do less and less. In the end, they were just given the problem and could do it all. There is much growth in the discourse that takes place around these rich problems.

  2. Still working on this chapter, but to quickly add to your comment about the activity, this must have been a lower level group since Venessa also had look up 6x3 in her multiplication table.
    Will add my post soon!

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  4. I found the activity odd too. My reasoning as I was reading was that maybe it was an introductory activity in a special Ed classroom of some sort.
    I LOVE the table on how to modify problems. I often find myself wanting to write my own, but feeling overwhelmed when I try to write it. I also find the book problems to easy, so I try to modify them, but then I'm back to feeling overwhelmed. I definitely plan on using that table.

  5. I totally agree that the activity in the opening of the chapter did not seem appropriate for seventh grade and I had to work hard to not get stuck there. I do like though how she used that example to show the difference in shallow math (memorize algorithms, complete hunt and copy exercises, plug and chug numbers) vs. deep math (thinking and understanding).

    I am really looking forward to getting beyond the definitions and into the logistics of what workshop would look like in a classroom!

  6. I'm so glad you mentioned the vignette at the beginning of the chapter. I teach 6th grade and, right or wrong, I would assume that my students (at least most of them) would have an understanding of even and odd numbers. I think the vignette did a good job of illustrating the point of what "understanding" is and it did make me think of measurement and using formulas (we often give students a formula and tell them to plug in the appropriate value).


  7. As I mentioned before, a man named Mark Forget came and did a couple seminars for our school over the last couple summers and this chapter really lends itself to his teachings. He really encourages you to spend time discussing, asking questions, voting, having students explain, arguing, writing, and THINKING! All of his activities really encompass what this chapter is saying. At least once a week last year I really tried to do one of his activities in my classroom (hunt for the main idea, think pair share, etc). And (not surprisingly) those are the days I left feeling most accomplished and I felt like my students really took something away from my class. I know this needs to happen more often!
    I was really excited last year because I was able to cover the majority of our curriculum, but I shouldn't have been proud of that or have even had that as a goal, we really need to be more concerned with understanding. That will be my main goal going into next year! Understanding, not covering.
    After reading this chapter, I feel that I am doing everything backwards. I introduce a lesson, show them the how and then we practice practice practice and then (if time) we get into the meaty comprehension questions. I need to rethink my teaching and really pull the challenging tasks to the forefront of the lesson and start a chapter or unit with those types of questions. It might be difficult for the students, but we are asking them to THINK which should be our main focus. Page 39 sums it up by saying "We need to ask good questions, promote connections to prior knowledge, and encourage conceptual thinking rather than rescuing students from struggle by simplifying problems or offering algorithms to follow."
    I need to remember that I don't have to rewrite the textbook. I just need to hunt for those good questions and then bring them to the front of the lesson (you may have to refine them a little, but the questions are there).
    As I look over the Bloom's Taxonomy I realize that most days I don't ask my students to do more than apply. That means that I am depriving my students of analyzing, evaluating, and creating. I'm not saying I never do those things, but on a day to day basis my students get to apply. That was a wake up call to me to challenge myself a little more in my teaching skills.
    A key point I pulled away from page 46 is, reflection time is important!! Sometimes we work up until the bell and I need to make it a point to stop and reflect on the day. I also need to think through my questions instead of just saying "how we we doing, do we have any last minute questions".
    Great chapter! I can't wait to keep reading!


    1. I agree that the end of the lesson reflection time is key, but sometimes it seems we run out of time for that. I guess that is why they are trying to get us to the focus on delving deeply into a few problems so we have time to reflect at the end.

      This workshop model of delivery is a huge shift for most math teachers. The way we are teaching math now for comprehension and understanding instead of just skill mastery is different than in the past.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jillian!

  8. Hi Sherrie - It's an interesting chapter, but spot on! I think we have to challenge ourselves as teachers to make our units vigorous for our students. It's hard, but worthwhile! I'm back from Alaska now and catching up on the book study. Lots more posts soon :). Thanks for the Pinterst link - I'll check it out!


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