How to Effectively Use Task Cards in Math Centers
Task Cards are a huge part of my math block every day because they have shown a huge increase in my students' understanding of skills, versus not using them. If you don't know what task cards are, they are simply math problems on cards that students can hold and work out one by one. Students being able to hold the task cards, rather than just having problems on a worksheet, makes them feel like they "own" the problem.
I create my math center rotations in two week blocks that involve six math centers and a small group (me). I go into more detail about my math center set up in my Success with Math Centers blog post if you would like more details about two week rotations. The six typical centers are as follows:
Multiplication Code Breakers
Previous Unit Review
From these six centers, my task card center and previous unit review centers are both typically task cards; however, they have different expectations. This allows students to get comfortable with the routine of task cards, whether they do them in groups or independently. Included in each task card folder are the task cards, recording sheets, dry erase markers, and the answer key.
Previous Unit Review
In this math center, students work in competition with their group members. Since this is a review, students should have a good understanding of the standard. There are typically 20-24 task cards in each set. Students in the group will each grab their own recording sheet and start with one task card at a time. They will solve the task card and write their answer on their recording sheet. Then, they will grab another task card and continue working through them. When there are five minutes remaining in class, students will use the answer key to check their sheets to see how many they each got correct. The student with the best score, based on how many they did, will receive a reward (piece of candy, ticket, eraser, etc.). I go over at the beginning of the year how to calculate this on a calculator and they work it out in their groups. I plan it this way because students work at their own pace. Rather than a student getting two correct out of three, and a student who answered ten but only got three correct because they were rushing, the students that got 2/3 had the higher score. They learn the importance of taking their time to get the correct answer instead of rushing through to get the most answered.
Task Card Center
Now, in my task card center, students are working on current skill/unit tasks cards. Practice could include the standard from the previous week, but it is always within the unit I am still teaching. Here, they work as a group to complete the task cards. They will work on white boards (or their desks) to solve the problems. Everyone in the group will do the same task card at once and discuss their answers and how they solved them. There is no competition here. Their goal is for everyone in the group to understand how to get the correct answer. If you missed my blog post about Grouping Students for Success, I highly recommend checking it out. Practicing working as a group, and helping and explaining to each other is an expectation in the classroom.
I know task cards are very popular in centers as part of the Workshop Model. Do you use workshop model in your classroom? In my online course, Elementary Math Workshop Academy, I talk all about organizing centers, creating groups, and running them effectively. I highly suggest checking it out if you also use Workshop Model in your classroom.