The education industry is no stranger to new buzzwords and trends. They’re always popping up. One you may have heard recently is ‘Rich Learning’ or ‘enrichment tasks’.
Rich Learning has roots in situational and social learning. The concept first came to light in 1987 in Afzal Ahmed’s work that explored the importance of rich mathematical tasks in education. Further research, including this Queensland report on productive pedagogies and Jo Boaler’s Railside study, solidified Rich Learning as a evidence-based teaching practice.
Today, Rich Learning is gaining momentum in schools across the country, popular for its playful approach that aims to spark curiosity and get students engaged in maths.
Rich Learning involves the whole class coming together for thought-provoking, teacher-led group activities where mathematical concepts are explored using open-ended questions with multiple entry and exit points.
Maths educator and founder of Math for Love, Dan Finkel, is a passionate advocate of Rich Learning. He describes it as “A process of developing robust and connected networks of knowledge, skills and problem solving abilities.''
“This happens when students become curious about something, struggle productively to understand it and own that experience.” says Dan.
This type of learning focuses on developing critical thinking and reasoning skills and encourages students to think like mathematicians with no assessment involved.
Dan has a great analogy for Rich Learning, see it here:
We all know how hard it can be to engage every student in maths. Maths anxiety is real and it can be detrimental to student outcomes. Evidence in education, cognitive psychology and neuroscience research shows that anxiety can lead to a drop in maths performance.
This paper from ACER describes other long-term effects of maths anxiety, including the development of a negative attitude towards the subject as well as avoidance of subjects, courses and careers that involve maths.
But those of us who love maths know that joy that can come from it. And we really want our students to experience it.
By introducing irresistible maths challenges or mysteries, students can become motivated to jump in and start problem solving. In many cases, Rich tasks don’t necessarily feel like maths tasks. They’re real world problems that students can tackle in a number of different ways.
For many students, Rich lessons provide their first fun and enjoyable experience in maths. They engage with the challenge and want to solve it. And this is exactly where real learning happens.
This what makes Rich Learning different to traditional maths lessons, it is driven by student curiosity.
Watch this video to see Dan Finkel explain what makes Rich Learning different and important.
So you understand why Rich Learning is important, what’s next? The amazing Maths Pathway teacher community has developed the following list of pro tips, designed to help you create effective and manageable Rich Lessons:
Check out our Rich Learning series below to get started.