Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Inquiry Update: Rich Learning Activities

In Term 3, my priority students changed and I revamped my inquiry focus question to investigate the extent to which the format of maths problems will influence the problem solving abilities of my target students.

My latest hunch was that the format of the questions I gave to the students was impacting on their ability to be successful in problem solving.

A PD session with Jo Knox highlighted the benefits of using open ended, rich learning tasks (like the 'Giant's Hand' activity to the right) as a way to engage and challenge students. She explained a resource bank is available on the nzmaths site. 
I chose rich learning activities that matched the term topic of Geometry & Measurement. To explore the concept of perimeter further, I chose the Parking Cars task for my priority group. Students needed to work out a new car park layout for a specific number of vehicles.

First we unpacked the problem in our group session and clarified key details e.g the dimensions of the parking lot and the required car spaces. I was explicit in telling them that there may be more than one possible result. Despite some initial hesitation to this 'new' kind of problem after the discussion, the students were all super keen to head off and be the first to work out a possible solution. Working with a buddy or on their own, some made a screencastify recording to explain their 'solution'.
Samples of student work are below:

Click here for Junior's full blog post

Click here for Kerstein's full blog post

The open ended and real-life nature of the rich tasks totally engaged the students and without any prompting from me. They willingly took longer to work through different options and were less focused on finding the 'right' answer. Their end solutions highlighted how students had interpreted (or misinterpreted) a problem and so provided me with a useful starting point for a discussion to find out more about their thinking process.

I was really pleased with the students' positive response to the 'rich' task and would like to use them with all the groups. The challenge will be to find tasks that are appropriate - not too hard or not too easy - and linked to the given maths topic being reviewed.

As Term 4 kicks off, the next hunch I would like to explore is how modelling books can be used to effectively scaffold my priority students in problem solving strategies.

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