Monday, June 2, 2014

Guest Blog: Open Tasks from a 4th Grade Classroom

Our Guest Blogger this week is Jessica Beeler, 4th grade teacher from Rutledge Elementary. Jessica has had great success with using open tasks in her classroom and was willing to share an example of how she facilitates mathematical learning through this type of open-ended problem. Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your knowledge with us today!

         This year I have been a huge advocate for problem solving in the classroom as a primary way for the students to learn and investigate new concepts.  They have really blown me away with their level of learning. I have challenged myself to use a variety of different facilitation methods to aid their math discovery.

         So I decided to pull out some open-ended problems to get the students thinking more deeply about their work.  The different problems they created were so exciting.  One student, who is usually quite quiet and with-drawn ripped through the first answer (3 ½ brownies) with a great problem.
        She was able to tell me how she figured out they needed 14 brownies total.  She drew the 3 ½ brownies for each person then simply counted them up, combining halves as she went. 
         I was able to easily differentiate another problem for her (2 ¼ brownies) which she created equally as quickly. 
         Then she moved on to 1 2/3 brownies,
and finally 5/3 brownies.  By this point she was very confident in her strategy and really understood it well. She really got excited by the different problems and did not have a single drift-away moment.
         A few of the students gravitated toward subtraction problems instead of equal share problems.  This was fine, but not what I was anticipating when I created the answers.  To avoid this the next time we did the activity I included the word each in the answer, “5 2/4 brownies each.”
         I have done a few similar problems in homework before, but am definitely going to start doing more.  It is an easy thing for me to create, and incredibly beneficial for the students.
         They also love checking each other’s problems to make sure that they truly do work out correctly.  I have had some great conversations with individual students as well as they have been designing their problems. I love seeing the excitement in their eyes as they see they can not only understand the math, but also create the math!