Last year I began seriously looking at released items from

*Smarter Balanced*, especially the performance tasks. "Wow!" I said to myself. "We've got some work to do!"

Although it is exciting to see that students will be using math seamlessly to solve real-world problems, it is daunting for classroom teachers. We have always focused on the

**learning of math**, rather than the

**"using" of math**.

With a colleague of mine, we devised a plan. Every week, for an hour and a half, we would have students work on extended tasks that use multiple standards. We would

**focus on the process**, not so much the answer, and we would praise, praise, praise students for their perseverance.

Each week we would build a performance task a little harder, and a little longer as students built up their stamina and confidence. We wanted students to use different strategies to solve problems and to feel like although it was hard, it was possible to complete the task.

Each Friday we worked with students, and each Friday at lunch, we sat and discussed what we had seen, and heard. We pondered why certain things were happening, like why students were using repeated addition for a problem that clearly called for multiplication. We thought about the right type of help to give students so as not to enable them right out of problem solving.

So, a short recap of what we learned: 1) It is just as much about the process as it is the answer. As students actually see the improvement in "time on task" and their ability to stay focused, they become engaged in the task. 2) These tasks are hard! Our 3rd graders were using a lot of brain power to work through them. Therefore, when students kept using repeated addition until January, we didn't intervene. Repeated addition was comfortable for them, so that is what they used! 3) Scaffold, scaffold, scaffold. When we "threw" in graphs before they had worked with them

**and**we asked them to do difficult tasks with the graphs, it was a disaster. Fast forward to a task

**after**they had worked with graphs during class, and the task was no problem. 4) Celebrate the feeling of accomplishment when finally solving a problem - there is nothing better!

I've started bundling these tasks and putting them in my store. I'm really excited to see how these 3rd graders do on their state test!

Math - It Works |