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MKN0956 - Exploring rich mathematical tasks - Tennyson High School, Lincolnshire

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 19 May 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 08 October 2010 by ncetm_administrator

MKN0956 - Exploring rich mathematical tasks

Steve Watson, Tennyson High School, Lincolnshire


In September 2009, I took up the post of head of maths at Tennyson High School in Lincolnshire. I had become very interested in using rich tasks in my previous schools, I had also started a local network with a focus on using and developing rich tasks. That network included teachers form secondary schools and further education. At the first meeting one teacher said ‘isn’t it fantastic to be meeting like this, just teachers talking about maths teaching’.  I wanted to set up a similar network in Lincolnshire. I was also interested in developing the use of rich tasks, problem solving and functional skills. Having talked about the idea with the head of school and the colleagues in the department I decided to apply for a maths knowledge network grant from the NCETM. I also approached our local primary schools and the local authority to encourage wider involvement

Structuring unstructured task

In the early days of the network we worked within our own department. We wanted to use our department meetings to talk about mathematics and pedagogy. Our discussions resulted in us identifying a need to develop the teaching of rich tasks, functional skills and problem solving. What we decided to do was to use a problem solving cycle as shown on the left. The cycle works like this; start by getting an interesting problem, then play with the problem,get some results or make some observations and finally communicate the results and tell the story of how the problem was done. This proved to be a useful of way structuring an unstructured task, as well as a useful way of introducing teachers and students to problem solving. The students found this a much more engaging and enjoyable approach.

Developing wider networks

It was not long after the mathematics knowledge network was started I was offered a position as a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham. I was encouraged to continue with the maths network although I could see there were going to be challenges because of the distance between Nottingham and Mablethorpe.
Image013.jpgI continued developing a mathematics knowledge network based in Nottingham. We held a launch event at the Centre for Research in Mathematics Education at the University of Nottingham, the event attracted sixty teachers and consultants from the region. Out of this, the network has become regional and more widespread. I’m also looking for other funding to help develop this network. I have also worked with a group of thirty teachers in Somerset. With my changed role I’m coordinating and working with a number of networks but still retaining the original theme; how to get started teaching problem solving and how to structure unstructured task. As well as groups in the East Midlands (Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire), I have also teamed up with a group of teachers in the South West. This network is expected to continue after the life of the mathematics knowledge project has finished.


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