Using Rich Math Tasks for Formative Assessment

This is the presentation proposal I submitted last Thursday to the NCTM conference committee. Would you attend this workshop?



Effective mathematics teaching is more than just teaching procedures; students must have opportunities to grapple with rich mathematics. In this workshop we will collaboratively investigate using rich math tasks to explore students’ use of the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice as part of formative assessment for learning.


Participants will walk away from this workshop with a source of rich mathematics tasks they can use in their classroom, and a flexible and useful protocol they can use to interpret student thinking about these tasks as part of formative assessment practices. Participants will also explore the power of teachers collaborating together to make evidence based decisions and improve their own practice.

Focus on Math:

The participants in this session will be given appropriate rich mathematical tasks and samples of student work, all along the continuum of algebraic reasoning from grade 9 to grade 12. Participants will not only be able to use these tasks in their own classrooms, they will be able to apply the protocol for looking at student work for their own students’ work, and build their school teams’ capacity for collaboration at the same time.





  • Melissa DeRussy wrote:

    David, I think this sounds great, if only it were for lower grades. I teach lower school grades K-4 so this propasal is way above the heads of my kids, but I might be tempted to come and see if I can adapt the numbers, skills, or levels to fit my needs.


  • David Wees wrote:

    Hi Melissa,

    I have two pieces of good news.

    1. Knowing you are planning on coming (and perhaps others like you), I can easily provide examples of rich mathematics tasks designed for kids in k through 4. Well, the tasks for students grades 2 through 4 will have some evidence of having been used in actual classrooms before, for k to 1, it is certainly possible to do rich mathematical tasks, but I don’t know of one specific good source for these. For an example of a possible task for grade 2, see this task on Illustrative Mathematics.

    2. The structure I plan on using does not depend necessarily on everyone having the same content level (ie. it can be used with teams of teachers who teach different grade levels) nor does it depend on advanced understanding of mathematics. IE. It can be used with elementary school teachers.

    I’d love to see you there. I also anticipate writing about this process in more detail over the coming months.

  • I would definitely want to attend a session like this. I’ve been teaching up and down the HS curriculum – next year I’ll have Geometry, AP Calc BC, and AP Stats – and the idea of having a rich set of problems on hand that can adapt to different levels is enticing.

  • David – I certainly would give this session serious consideration. My day-to-day work focuses on large-scale summative assessment. I see your session as an opportunity to explore how classroom-based formative assessment might influence my work at the large-scale level. By seeing what you’re focusing on, I hope to create assessments that focus on the same important attributes.

  • David Wees wrote:

    Hi Chad,

    Interestingly enough, we are also using rich mathematics tasks as large-scale aggregate assessments for the 27 schools I work with, so there is a direct parallel in our work to your work. Maybe we can discuss this in more detail via email or something? I’ll send you an email with more details.


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