Writing a new Scheme of Work – Part 8: Rich Tasks – Median

You can view all the posts in the epic “Writing a Maths Scheme of Work” series on this page. It’s kind of like Game of Thrones, only with slightly less nudity and dragons.

So, with the order of the scheme of work roughly decided upon and our staff seemingly on board, it is now time for the three of us to set about our individual tasks. And as I mentioned previously, I am taking on the (rather large, but ultimately fun) job of sourcing rich and engaging tasks.

Now, before I share the first source of these, I wanted to discuss briefly my view on what actually constitute a rich task, because I find it is one of those phrases that gets banded around left, right and centre in the world of maths teaching.

For me, a task is rich if it contain some (or ideally all) of the following elements:

  • The underlying concept should be interesting to students – and crucially this does not necessarily mean relevant to real life. Students find the strangest things engaging, and I think that they would take an abstract, fun number puzzle that has no meaning in their day to day lives ahead of a contrived “real life” trigonometry example any day of the week.
  • Some part of it should be accessible to all students – increasingly I find these days that if students don’t have success in the first 30 seconds or so of a task, you are in danger of losing them.
  • There should be opportunities to extend students – students should be encouraged, by the task itself, to ask questions, speculate, investigate, discuss and ultimately discover.
  • The planning of rich tasks should go into the questions and prompts, not the PowerPoint and worksheets – it is through questioning that effective differentiation is achieved, and questions are far nicer to plan than full lessons!

So, as I described in my post about The Structure of the Scheme, my plan is to have one compulsory rich task for each Topic Unit, but also an additional section of high quality rich tasks available in each Topic Unit folder that I hope staff will dip into seeing as they have more time than ever to cover the topics.

Sourcing high quality rich tasks can be tricky, but there was no doubt as to my first port of call.

As I have said several times, if it was up to me I would have Don Steward knighted. I have never met the man, but I have spoken about him so much in recent years that I am concerned he has taken a restraining order out on me. I love him. He is my hero. I am a Stewardite and proud.

Don Steward’s Median blog really is my go-to place for rich, interesting ideas for tackling topics. You will find ideas that will challenge and extend students, activities that will lead students to discover key concepts and relationships, tasks to practise key skills, questions that will take 5 minutes and investigations that could last several lessons.

But it is one thing knowing about such a fantastic resource, and another matter using it’s content in a way that is accessible and useful to staff.

So, here is my plan…

Compulsory Rich Tasks

Firstly, I am sifting through the blog for the compulsory rich content component of the Topic Units and adding my own spin on things.

Here is an example of an activity that Don calls “Reduction Multiplication, presented as it is on the blog:


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some other questions:
  • what is the largest number with an odd number root? What is the common property of numbers that give an odd number root and why? How many numbers are there with an odd root?
  • what happens to numbers with a 5 in them?
  • by working backwards, find all of the 33 numbers that have a root of 5

this task is presented as ‘Fossils’ in 1000 problems (thanks to Puntmat for locating this for me – I had forgotten)

A really lovely activity, I am sure you will agree.

Here is my spin on it, which just contains some extra prompts and questions for teachers to ask students, and an interactive Excel file I put together to aid the checking process and encourage further investigation and hypothesising! 🙂

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This will be the compulsory rich task for the Number Skills topic at the very start of Year 7. I hope it will practice key skills of multiplication, but also have opportunities for students to extend, discuss and investigate things further. There is even the potential to begin to generalise and suggest reasons for the relationships and patterns discovered.

Perhaps more importantly, it sets the tone for the scheme of work, both in terms of the fact that I want to encourage staff to plan questions and prompts over PowerPoints and worksheets, and students to be curious, ask questions and discover things.

Click here for the Multiplication Reduction PowerPoint File and here for the Excel Multiplication Reduction Checker, just in case they are useful.

Additional Rich Tasks

But I also plan to use the Median Resources as additional rich tasks for Topic Units throughout the scheme of work.

By using the handy tags on the blog, it is very easy to find all the resources on specific topics. And seeing as the resources are largely designed on PowerPoint, if you save the images onto a PowerPoint file, they tend to fit perfectly on the canvas 🙂

This means, I can assemble a collection of rich tasks and ideas for a given topic in a single PowerPoint, and then staff can pick and choose from these when they are working their way through a Topic Unit.

So, here is a taster for some of the additional rich tasks I plan to use, with the PowerPoint containing each complete collection at the end

Arithmetic Activities

A collection of great ideas to help students practise the fundamental skills of the four operations, but also encourage them to spot patterns, quick methods, make generalisations and investigate. A great way to kick start Year 7!

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Download the Arithmetic Activities PowerPoint here

Quadrilateral Activities

A nice collection of resources to help students really think about the key properties of quadrilaterals. I particularly like the drawing task at the start, which offers lots of opportunity for discussion of the properties with a nice link to area 🙂

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Download the Quadrilaterals Activities PowerPoint here

Algebraic Proof Activities

As I talked about in the Sample GCSE Questions post, I think proof is going to get a lot more challenging in the new maths GCSE. Hence, this wealth of top quality resources from Don is a Godsend! Investigating some of these on Autograph or GeoGebra would help enable students to access a particularly difficult topic.

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Download the Algebraic Proof Activities PowerPoint here

So, there you go. As I say, I don’t know a better way to start compiling high quality rich resource for the new Scheme of Learning than to raid Don Steward’s Median Maths Blog. I love the way they are ready to be used straight away or, as I tried to show with Multiplication Reduction, can be tweaked and adapted to offer staff and students extra support.

So, thank you (Sir) Don Steward, thank you 🙂

In coming posts we will look at other sources of rich tasks, starters and investigations. And we will get a taster of the homeworks and assessments that Colm and Karen are busily working on!


9 thoughts on “Writing a new Scheme of Work – Part 8: Rich Tasks – Median

  1. Sir Don Steward – got my vote! Think this is wonderful and something that I am also being tasked to do for our new SoW for each topic – so will share anything I do – but I am sure you will have already got there! Thank you for all your fantastic work – it is such a spur for me! ( Despite the fact that on Monday we rollover timetable!)

  2. Thank you for your kind words. And please do share anything. It is a massive job, and it is great to see what other people are coming up with 🙂 Thanks again. CrAIG

  3. I agree that Don Steward’s Median is awesome. I just wish that he would start his sentences with capital letters!

  4. As a relatively new teacher, this series gives me an in-depth look into the thought processes involved in a good scheme of work. I can’t wait to continue reading, keep it up!

  5. Median is new for me too but what a find your PPs are. Just the thing to encourage my 8s to explore. It’s a pleasure to read about the work going into a SoW that is really being thought about.

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