When schools from Boston to Texas are missing school,teachers may start thinking about how to tune up the tasks they give their students.  Some recent blog posts, and one from the past, can show different ways to think about the tasks that we assign our students.

What are you students bringing to your task?

In Andrew Gael‘s blog there was an interesting post about describing a number of ways to present students with a task that asks them about area while keeping in mind each of his students’ “mathematical strengths, goals and cognitive pathways your students use to access the content.”  In “There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Task” he effectively makes a framework for thinking about task in terms of the kinds of thinking students would use to finish the task.

What do you want your students to do?

Kate Nowak described a framework which explores another way to improve a task in her January post “On Making Them Figure Something Out.”  When teaching a concept to a student, Kate implies that in the worst scenario you could “Tell Them Something.” Better than that, you could “Make Them Practice Something”, and perhaps even “Make Them Notice Something” or “Make Them Do Something”.  “But lots of times, the learning that comes out of MTDS and MTNS doesn’t really stick that great.” Kate writes, “They can maybe do an exit ticket, but ask them a question that relies on The Thing in a week, and you just get a bunch of blank stares.”  In this post she explains how she turned a MTDS task about the discriminant into the penultimate type MTFSO, “Make them figure something out”.

How Mathematically Complex Is The Task?
If you want one more way to look at tasks, and don’t mind looking at a post from 2009, Mr. Vasicek wrote about the “Task Analysis Guide” which was originally published in a mathematics journal and looks at problems in terms of cognitive complexity.  The different scales in this guide include “Memorization”, “Procedures without Connections”, “Procedures with Connections”, and “Doing Mathematics”.

If you want to give some of your tasks an upgrade, all of these teachers give you ways to think about tasks that can help illustrate tangible next steps to improve student learning.