Integrating Rich Tasks - Activity 1.5

Age 5 to 11
Article by Jennifer Piggott

Published 2011 Revised 2017

To go back to the introduction to this series of professional development activities, click here

How do pupils progress in their problem solving?

In the previous activity you were asked to think about the connections between higher-order thinking skills, problem solving and rich tasks. In the next set of activities we want to think about how we can support our pupils in problem solving

You will need the following resources:

Progression cards: ProgressionCards.doc
Problem-solving cycle cards: ProblemSolvingCycleCards.doc
For reference you may want to refer to the progression list: ProgressionCardList.doc


We have based this activity on the National Strategy's Primary Framework Assessment GuidelinesĀ (as of 2011). We are not asking you to think about assessment but about process skills and progression. The guidelines are based on three areas: problem solving, reasoning and communicating.

There are two parts to this task. There is no 'right answer' to either part but the activities are designed to make you think about:
  • the mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills you want your learners to develop
  • the sorts of things your pupils will be doing
  • the development of thinking and problem-solving skills over time (progression)
It is the discussion you have as you undertake the task which is key. By making sense of phrases and describing what you mean by them in your own words you will come to your own view about how they inform what you are trying to help your pupils to learn.

First you will need a set of the problem-solving cycle cards ( ProblemSolvingCycleCards.doc ) and of the progression cards ( ProgressionCards.doc ). [The Progression Cards are based on lists for Levels 2, 3, 4 and 5 so you might like to think about what would come before L2 and after L5.]

Lay the cycle cards out and then distribute the progression cards amongst them. There will be quite a lot of discussion about what some of these mean. Remember that there is no right answer and a lot depends on your interpretation of a card's meaning. In the end you should put each card under the heading that feels like the 'best fit'. Do not agonise for too long on each card - you can change your mind at any time. When we did this task at NRICH we moved things around quite a lot during the second part of the task!

The second part of the task is about ordering the cards under each of the five process headings. The aim of this part of the task is for you to think about progression. What would you expect learners at different stages to be able to do? When we did this task we found it useful to group cards that seemed to be about similar things together before trying to order them. So, for example, under Analysis-Reasoning we found a few cards that seemd to be about 'organising' so we pulled these out and put them in order .

The lists are not meant to be exhaustive so you might want to add some cards of your own.

When you have finished the tasks you might find it useful to refer to the progression list ( ProgressionCardList.doc ) as this will enable you to map what you have done to the Strategy document.

Return to the introduction
Go back to Activity 1.4
Move on to Activity 2.1