Education, K-12, Math

3-Acts Math Tasks

I sent this e-mail to our teachers as my weekly GT Tip, and realized that it would work well as a blog post.  So, here you go!

One of my recent discoveries in the Twitterverse has been “3-Acts Math Tasks.”  According to this site, “A Three-Act Task is a whole group mathematics task consisting of 3 distinct parts: an engaging and perplexing Act One, an information and solution seeking Act Two, and a solution discussion and solution revealing Act Three.”

To see examples of 3-Acts Tasks, you can check out Dan Myer’s explanation and modeling of each act here.  You can find links that include printable answer documents to 3-Acts Tasks for Kinder-7th grades on the Weekly Tip page here, as well as links to tasks for upper grades.

The tasks that have been provided by teachers all around the world include pictures and/or video of real-life math problems, making them relevant and intriguing to math students.

What struck me when I read about these tasks is the rich conversation involved, as well as the inclusion of students of all levels.  Many thinking skills are practiced in addition to the actual mathematical operations used.  I know this is long, but here is a poignant story from the NCTM site in an article by @DaneEhlert that emphasizes the value of these tasks,

“My favorite reason for using these tasks is the students themselves. I have to mention one individual whose story inspired me to never take these problems out of the curriculum.

I had a junior in my freshman algebra class last year because he had failed the course twice. On the last day of school, the student came to see me.

“Mr. E, I just want to say thank you. I’ve always struggled with math, but this year I finally got it.”

What struck me the most was the student discussing his previous struggles with math. This was surprising because he was brilliant mathematically. Every time we did an open-ended problem in class, I was blown away by his thought process, visuals, and reasoning. It was incredible to witness, and the other students were in awe, as well. We could all see that this student had an amazing ability to reason mathematically.

I told him he was brilliant, and it showed in his work. His response is why I will always use these tasks.

‘Well, yeah, I was good at those problems because they’re real life. They just make sense.'”

These may seem time-consuming, but the conversations and levels of thinking are designed to replace much of the lecture and practice problems that often engage or make sense to only a fraction of the class.  Hopefully, you will try a few and find them to be worthwhile!

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