Published September 2014.
This article is part of Enriching the Secondary Curriculum.
Rich tasks have a range of characteristics that together offer opportunities to meet the different needs of learners. On its own a task is not rich, it is how the task is used in the classroom that may make it rich. With this in mind it might still be useful to list some of the characteristics that make a task rich.
Rich tasks and curriculum coverage are not at odds with each other. Rich tasks can offer the opportunity to explore and develop an understanding of mathematical concepts that are part of the normal curriculum. The nature of rich tasks gives learners the opportunity to question and develop their understandings of mathematical ideas, and to gain the confidence to apply their knowledge in a range of contexts, even unfamiliar ones.
To aid teachers in making decisions about what rich tasks to apply where, the NRICH website offers a number of support mechanisms:
We are not telling teachers how to use the problems by giving detailed lesson plans. The nature of rich tasks involves "letting go" and taking account of the range of needs of your own learners, and preparing for where the task is likely to take them. Any suggestion that we can begin to second guess what best serves the needs of the learners in every classroom would be misplaced.
Rich tasks encourage learners to think creatively, work logically, communicate ideas, synthesise their results, analyse different viewpoints, look for commonalities and evaluate findings. However, what we really need are rich classrooms: communities of enquiry and collaboration, promoting communication and imagination.
This is an extract of key ideas from a longer article by Jenny Piggott. You can read the full version here.