Meaty Mathematics

Wairakei Primary School teachers have been learning how to get their students to engage in meaty mathematics tasks.

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Meaty mathematics tasks encourage mathematical challenges for students. They also support differentiated learning, collaboration,  and creative thinking. These tasks required learners to do more than remember a fact or reproduce a skill.

Meaty mathematics tasks are known as open tasks.  They are either open-ended - tasks that involve multiple solutions or open beginning - tasks that involve multiple student creations. Jo Knox, from The Learner First, worked with teachers and students on open beginning tasks.

Using maths money, students were challenged to create and describe a repeating pattern. Being able to identify the unit of repeat was important. They then had to represent their pattern on a number line and add up the amounts of maths money as the pattern continued. Finally, they had to pose a question (they had to be able to answer the question themselves) and find a friend to solve their problem. 


By using a range of maths money, including cents (decimals)  and place value money (money that includes denominations up to 10,000) this open beginning task provided differentiation for a range of learners.

Our youngest students were able to take part in the same task but used unifix blocks to support their counting and addition.

Collaboration and creativity happened as students worked in pairs to make their repeating patterns and develop their questions.

Teacher voice

Room 5 has been loving the discussNdefend Esti Mystery tasks that Jo showed us.  Students are having to estimate an answer then use the clues to eliminate the wrong ones.  It has made our maths warm ups more engaging and fun.

Room 7 enjoys a good debate which the open up tasks support.

I did the open up task that Jo modelled with my class. Students enjoyed the task and it encouraged mathematical discussion.

Some students find it difficult to adjust to a task where there is not a set answer. These tasks require effort and creativity. 

It is great to be able to work on engaging mathematical challenges with the whole class because they are so easily differentiated.

Next Steps

Making open tasks more of the norm in our mathematics lessons is the goal moving forward for our teachers.

2024 Sprague

Sara Sprague

I have been teaching since 2004. I started teaching at Wairakei Primary School in 2011. I am married to Steve and we have two children – Myles and Amelia. Myles and Amelia both enjoyed their primary school years here at Wairakei Primary School. I am really proud to be part of this school and appreciate all the amazing opportunities that are given to our children.

I like working with children and teaching. I love the fun that can be had and the feeling of being a part of a child’s growth and development. My favourite subject is maths. I appreciate the patterns and connections that can be found in numbers and I enjoy problem-solving. I have trained as a Math Specialist Teacher (MST).

My family and I love living in the Taupō area. When I’m not teaching I enjoy spending time with my family, walking my dog and mountain biking - which is a particular family passion.


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