"Providing students with opportunities to grapple with math has led to amazing things happening in my class. Students are totally excited and are driven to figure out not just how to solve a problem but why it works."
Jessica Proffitt, Fifth-Grade Teacher at Two Rivers
What are problem-based tasks? |
Problem-based tasks (PBTs) are math lessons built around a single, compelling problem.
The problems are truly “problematic” for students. A “problematic” problem is challenging and doesn’t offer an immediate solution. This means that a given problem might be problematic for some students but not others. For example, consider the question: “I had five apples and then I ate two of them. How many apples do I have now?” This question may be problematic for a kindergartener, but it isn’t problematic for a first grader who immediately knows to subtract. With problem-based tasks, the problems must be problematic. The problems provide an opportunity for students to build conceptual understanding. Problem-based tasks require students to apply their current understanding and skills to new contexts that highlight core math concepts. For example, when students solve a problem that could be solved with multiplication before they have formally been taught what multiplication is and how it works, they build an understanding that multiplication is repeated addition. The problems give all students access to develop understanding. Well-designed problem-based tasks provide multiple entry points for students to engage in problem solving, ensuring that all students have access to the same concepts. When students solve the problems in different ways—including drawing pictures, acting out the problem, writing algorithms, and using manipulatives—they make connections between the variety of models that all accurately illustrate the underlying mathematics. |
Learn more |
Download the above slides in the Additional Resources section.
Additional Resources
Want to learn more about problem-based tasks in math? Read our deep dive.
Do you have a question about problem-based tasks or feedback about what we've shared? We'd love to hear from you. Send us an email at info@learnwithtworivers.org.
Do you have a question about problem-based tasks or feedback about what we've shared? We'd love to hear from you. Send us an email at info@learnwithtworivers.org.