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Episode 29: Implementing Rich Math Tasks - An Interview with Delise Andrews and Sorsha T. Mulroe

Desiree Harrison 0:00

Educators are always looking for new ways to cognitively and emotionally engage students. If you follow me on twitter at kidsmathtalk, then you know that at the end of June 2021, I posted about a new exciting book series that assists educators in doing exactly this by offering authentic and engaging math tasks - it’s called Classroom-Ready Rich Math Tasks: Engaging Students in Doing Math, published by Corwin. There are K-1, 2-3, and 4-5 versions to suit your needs and I had the absolutely pleasure of being a co-author on the grades 2-3 grades book!

So, are you wondering what makes something a rich math task? Or How you implement them into your classroom? Well, whether you are virtual or face to face, this series answers these questions and more! These books are must adds to your professional library, but these will be in your work bag, in your hands, and on your desk, not on the shelf! I even suggest getting them coil bound so that you can easily flip back through the pages.

Today’s guests talk to us about this interactive resource - Classroom-Ready Rich Math Tasks book series.

Desiree Harrison 1:49

Today on the Kids Math Talk Podcast, we have two of the authors of the new book in a series, it's called Classroom-Ready Rich Math Tasks: Engaging Students in Doing Math, grades 4-5. Welcome to the podcast!

Delise Andrews 2:06

So, hi, I'm Delisa Andrews. I am a math coordinator for grades 3-5 for Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Sorsha T. Mulroe 2:15

And hi, I'm Sorsha Mulroe. I'm a math support teacher, more widely known as a math coach, in Howard County, Maryland. And I am primarily at Runningbrook Elementary School.

Desiree Harrison 2:30

Alright, Thank you! So, you two were responsible in the main part for the actual tasks that are a part of this book. And, and upwards of 50 - right, they're more than 50.

Delise Andrews 2:40


Desiree Harrison 2:41

54! Okay! So, you all were responsible for the creation of 54 different tasks. And not just tasks, but rich math tasks. So, take us through your thought process for selecting a high quality rich math task.

Headshot of Delise Andrews
Delise Andrews

Delise Andrews 3:01

Well, I think it's important to note that this isn't a curriculum, this is a supplement to your curriculum, right. And so, any teacher could pick this up, and as Sorsha mentioned, the tasks are organized by

domain and connected to specific standards that teachers will need to be teaching with students. And, so that was one of the first things we needed to make sense of was - What really is the point of the standard? What are we trying to get at, right? What's the mathematics that we want students to be grappling with?

And, so then a rich math task would be one that engages students in that grappling with the mathematics. It's not something that is "a problem" necessarily that can be quickly and easily solved with the right answer and we move on. But you'll find that a lot of these tasks have, I think, low-floor, high-ceiling, right. They have a lot of entry-points and potentially multiple solutions even for some of the tasks, so then the point of engaging in the task is really the facilitation and the discussion and having opportunities for students to develop conceptions and misconceptions and revise their thinking and ask each other questions and try things out and experiment and through that develop and understanding of the mathematical content that's at the heard of the standard that we were writing toward.

Sorsha, anything to add there.

Headshot of Sorsha T. Mulroe
Sorsha T. Mulroe

Sorsha T. Mulroe 4:15

You actually just mentioned the three main things that I was thinking about. So, the engagement, and I would just add to that, the opportunity for exploration for students. I think we really thought through the context of the tasks that we were writing to make sure that it was engaging to students, but that it included high enough cognitive demand that there was space for productive struggle, and again, just the opportunity for multiple solution paths and different access points along the way.

Desiree Harrison 4:57

And, so just to give the audience a little bit of background for this series and for your book in particular, can you tell us about the organization of the book.

Sorsha T. Mulroe 5:09

Sure. I can start and then Delise, feel free to add if I miss something. So, chapters 1-3 were primarily about rich math tasks - what they are, how to implement them - and chapters 4-15 are organized by domain, so, for example, for Operations and Algebraic Thinking, we have 3 chapters, which include, Expressions and Equations, Factors and Multiples, and then Patterns and Relationships.

So, it's organized by domain and then also some big ideas. So, within each chapter, we have tasks for grades 4 or grade 5, and then within each task, we have materials that you need, how to launch, how to facilitate the task, questions to ask, closure ideas, and Delise, do you want to talk about, sort of, other additions that we have within each task? (8:02)

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