With that being said, I think it is important to get the tasks that my students have done this year out to other math teachers so they know what is possible. I have had multiple groups of teachers come into my classroom this year, and the comments are always the same...
1. I wish my students communicated like that...
2. I wish my students showed understanding like that...
3. I wish my students stayed on task like that...
I am very proud to hear these comments, and I always pass the kind words along to my students. One of the comments I don't hear are that my students are geniuses or rocket scientists. I am glad this is recognized by teachers as well, because teachers think that you can only do these tasks with the highest level of student academically (I've heard that comment many times at different presentations I have done). This certainly isn't true, because frankly a lot of my "lower level" students figure these tasks out faster than my traditional "successful" students. My students struggle in general with these tasks, but given time and the allowance of communication, everyone figures them out.
This process of getting students to communicate, show justification, and stay focused doesn't happen the first time you do one of these tasks. It's a process...sometimes even a slog. I think that problems happen when a teacher gives up on these tasks after the first try. You must keep plugging away. The benefits will far outweigh any struggles you have. All of these positives that teachers pick out carry over into everything else you do. These tasks aren't novelties, but an expectation of how everything should go in class. Even on days we don't do these tasks, my students display these desirable traits (for the most part...they are middle school students :-) ).
I think from here on out, I will post one task every so often, talk very briefly about it, and post some student work. Feel free to use these tasks, ask questions about these tasks, give suggestions to make these tasks better, etc. I will make sure to link where each task was adapted from so you can go right to the source if you wish.
I did the Pokemon Go task with my 8th grade students. I adapted this from Dan Meyer. I polled my students before I did this task, and only a small percentage had ever played Pokemon Go, so I was initially worried that some students wouldn't understand what I was going for. I ended up having very few question about the mechanics of the game, so don't worry about that. One idea that many student brought up after the fact was that we didn't calculate for the middle of the fan. I did not take this into account when I went through my task either, so I will have to account for it next time. As sad as the last two question are, they are both true depictions of my weekends these days. I have included a few pieces of student work along with my notes that I took the first time I prepared for this task. Hopefully I will have time to include these tasks a little more frequently, but here are links to both of my task pages for the year (updated as we do more tasks) in case you are curious what else we have done.
Grundy Center Middle School
Middle School Mathematics Instructor
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Editorial Panel
Iowa Department of Education Statewide Mathematics Leadership Team
Journal of Educational Technology and Society Executive Peer Reviewer
MA Middle Level Mathematics (UNI)
Yager Exemplary Teaching Award 2014