No Answers Given for Deep Math Tasks

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Jo Boaler of Stanford University, you’ll need to make it your mission to learn about her this summer. She is an outstanding educator that is truly creating a revolution in the math world.

You can find out more at, where there are deep math tasks for many ages. I had the pleasure of working with a phenomenal fourth grade teacher who wanted to see these math tasks in action. Here is an example of one…


As teachers we were very hands off while they were solving, and decided to break them into small groups. We told them that we were going to come around and ask questions.  We told them they could use tools, use each other and that we would not be giving them the answers.

One particular group tried to just imagine it. That didn’t work. Then, a group mate began drawing. That still didn’t work.  So finally the group decided to build a model of the tic tac toe board.  Voila! The light bulbs turned on. They began to debate and talk and figure out which ones were repeats and which ones were unique combinations.


And guess what, we STILL did not give them the answer.  According to some of our most researched math educators/math gurus, it’s actually OK to not give an answer. Math isn’t about questions and answers, instead it is about THINKING.  It’s about estimating whether that thinking is reasonable. When you are shopping, and trying to figure out how many pizzas to buy for your giant family that is coming this weekend, there is no answer key. Right?

Don’t worry…I’m still adjusting to that way of thinking. This is VERY hard for me to not reveal any answers. More to come on these types of tasks!




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