Professional Development

Using Tasks Richly

About John Mason

Although it is popular to seek out rich tasks, the conjecture is offered that it is not the task that is rich, but whether the task is used richly, in order to make it pedagogically effective.

To this end examples are given of different ways to introduce a task, and indications are given of ways to use a task richly, whether during work, or in drawing work to a close. The same ideas can be used when proposing an exploration, or when tackling an assessment question or practice exercises.

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About Professor John Mason

John Mason spent 40 years at the Open University writing distance-learning courses in mathematics and in mathematics education, following a PhD in Combinatorial Geometry in 1970.

The author of numerous books and papers, his approach has always been experiential: closely observing himself, and connecting with teachers, educators and researchers through resonance between their experience and his own. To this end he assembled Researching Your Own Practice Using The Discipline of Noticing, recording practices and insights gained while leading the Centre for Mathematics Education, and based on his experience with J. G. Bennett in the 1970s. His 1982 book with Leone Burton & Kaye Stacey, Thinking Mathematically, which was extended in 2010, has proved to be a classic, stressing learning from lived experience. His principal interests have always been in nurturing and supporting problem solving in learners, and supporting people who similarly want to foster and sustain mathematical thinking in their learners. He became interested in mental imagery when working with Dick Tahta and colleagues in the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, and this developed into explorations into the role and structure of attention when teaching and learning.

Ages: Primary, Secondary