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LEMA – Open Mathematical Tasks for the New Curriculum

I have had the great pleasure of being involved in a project involving the Central & East Manchester High Schools. We have pursued a project started by universities in Manchester and across Europe.

The LEMA (Learning and Education in and through Modeling and Applications) Project was developed to support teachers to incorporate mathematical modeling in their classrooms so that learners gain experience of using mathematics to solve substantial problems. Full details can be found on their website: http://www.lema-project.org/web/eu/tout.php . Several Maths teachers from the City worked with the University of Manchester on this last year.

In conjunction with funding from the Greater Manchester Challenge we decided that we should continue this project to develop resources for Key Stage 3 (11-14yrs) that would cover the requirements of the new National Curriculum.

In a nutshell, LEMA tasks are open ended mathematical problems that require an assumption based model in order to solve. By their nature they help develop pupil: Personal, Learning & Thinking Skills; Functional Skills and show the Cross Curricular Dimensions.

Here are a few of examples:

We have met a number of times and created 3 complete sets of tasks, one for each standard topic in the Maths curriculum. Although a joint effort, a great deal of the effort and credit must go to Dave & Leanne from the Maths department at Wright Robinson Sports College.

If you would like the full set of tasks we have produced so far they are available here: Y7 Core, Y7 Support, Y8 Core. Tasks for Y9 will be available soon. Although split into specific years and abilities these can easily be mixed and matched to suit most classes.

Key to successful LEMA lessons are the skills of team working and communication along with being able to make suitable assumptions to solve the problems. At first pupils will need some guidance on how to tackle a task like this but we have found that they quickly adapt to the problems and develop the skills needed. Groups of around 3 to 4 pupils seems to work best. Once they are used to tackling the tasks it is possible to start getting groups to present their work, both as posters on A3 and as oral presentations. I think that these presentations are key to improving our pupil’s ability to verbalise their maths.

I hope these are of use to other teachers, again, I can only take a little credit for this – it’s been a great collaborative effort. I hope we’re not using the LEMA name without permission either, this part of the project has not been completed in conjunction with the universities.

What have you been doing to teach the skills required for the new curriculum?

Have you any suggestions for similar tasks?

Are there any other resources along these lines available on the Web? I can recommend Dan Meyer’s ‘What can you do with this?’ series: http://blog.mrmeyer.com/?cat=70.

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