Math Daily 3 and Task Board

The second item on my back to school list is a math task board similar to the one that I made for reading. This seems simple enough, in fact, I will likely end up making a modified copy of what I use for reading to use in math.  However, as you can see from what I wrote on my list, this item is far less about the task board than it is about the guiding philosophy and intention of how I want to structure my math period:

Task Board for math- With a heterogeneous group in place will we need to shift to a Daily 2/3 system? What will that look like? What will the pieces and task board look like? How will EM fit into the system? ThatQuiz? Hopscotch? Problem solving?

While the implementation of The Daily 5 (Boushey & Moser, 2014) has been extremely successful for our literacy block, our math time has been a little more haphazard. This coming year I would like to be more intentional and focused in using what Boushey & Moser (2014) call the Math Daily 3.

Math Daily 3

Boushey & Moser describe the Math Daily 3 as having three elements:

  • Math by Myself
  • Math Writing
  • Math with Someone

As with the Daily 5 for literacy, the Math Daily 3 is not a content specific organism.  Boushey and Moser stress very clearly that “Math Daily 3 is not about providing specific content” (p. 123). Rather, the Math Daily 3 is a framework of independence and choice around which students engage in mathematical thinking, activities, and work. It gives the students a specific set of tasks and activities to be working on and allows the teacher to be freed up from classroom management to instead focus on small group work and on individual conferences. Like with the Daily 5 for literacy, this kind of organization and independent setup is perfect for my classroom.  We are a space in which independence and student choice are paramount, and the Math Daily 3 fits that thinking perfectly.

The difficult question to address is what will each of these elements look like in my classroom?  It is interesting to note, that while Boushey and Moser give a few general examples, there are very few specifics as to what each of the three part of the Math Daily 3 should look like.  In the end, this is probably for the best.  While the Math Daily 3 is a fantastic framework, there is still the necessity of making sure that I address both our state and district standards and expectations when it comes to content.  However, there are a few specific ideas that I am beginning to solidify as the new year approaches.

Math by Myself

This is perhaps the element most consistent with a more traditional style of teaching.  Give the kids work and have them do it in silence is fairly standard stuff.  There is a place for rote practice and drill, and this may be one of the things that gets placed here.  One of the best tools that I have come across for basic algorithmic skills practice is ThatQuiz is a fantastic resource for teachers who have students who need skill practice.  It has an amazing variety of skills to be practiced, from arithmetic to calculus, and each skill comes with a large number of different degrees of difficulty.  You can set easy practice or hard practice across a wide range of skills.  One of ThatQuiz’s best features is it’s immediate feedback.  This allows students to see whether or not they are correct as they progress through the assignment.  This kind of independence is perfect for Math by Myself.

Math by Myself is also a good place for certain Everyday Math pages (this is our district mandated curriculum).  The teacher’s guide for Everyday Math denotes whether or not each page is better used as independent or partner work. Depending on the skill and the quality of the work on the page, I will specify which pages of the student’s math journals should be done during their Math by Myself time.  One of the drawbacks to this, however, is the lack of feedback to the student other than us taking the time at the end of class to go over the assignment and the answers.  It is therefore quite easy for students to practice their skills incorrectly using the math journals.

Math Writing

This is the area of the Math Daily 3 that is most different from a traditional math program.  Perhaps because of this, it is also the area that is most ambiguous in The Daily 5 book as well.  Boushey and Moser (2014) describe that Math Writing is “the time students express and articulate their thinking and understanding by working on a particular math problem or math concept through pictures, numbers, and words, and occasionally by creating problems of their own” (p. 124).

So what exactly does that mean?  It seems quite open to interpretation and because of this I am deciding to take it in a couple of different ways.  First, the idea of practicing problem solving seems quite important.

Problem Solving

All too often we as teachers focus on our students knowledge of particular algorithms, then assume that by knowing how to divide, they will automatically know how to solve complex problems using division.  Unfortunately, solving complex problems is significantly different than simple division, so much so as to really be separate skills.  Teaching students to be strategic about how to solve problems isextremely important and one that I feel is actually more important.

Therefore, the idea of having students solve problems during Math Writing time, might be a valuable experience.  This might mean a daily problem of some kind, or even a collaborative problem that students could work on together.  This idea of collaborative problem solving is one that I have used for a number of years, though this kind of work is better suited for a whole class period than a single 20-30 minute session.

Math Concept

I think that perhaps the better way to interpret the idea of Math Writing is in the idea of the math concept.  Students are often taught math concepts, without really making any deep connection or exploring the concept in a real way.  What if we gave students the time to explain a topic in their own way, with their own voice, and in a media of their choosing?  What if instead of simply learning about right, obtuse, and acute angles, they had to explain the concept on their own and give examples that they themselves found?

I experimented with something like this late last year when my students were exploring the concept of pi and where it comes from.  All of my students understood that pi is approximately 3.14, but did they understand why?  I had them all bring in different circles, then measure the circumference and the diameter.  Then they made a spreadsheet and divided the circumference by the diameter to get a number approximately close to pi. You can see from this Tweet how it went.

This wasn’t enough however.  I still felt that my students’ grasp on this concept was too thin.  It had been fun, but even by the next day I could tell that they hadn’t really absorbed the concept.  This gave me the chance to have them try and explain the concept.  Using their iPads and whatever app they felt like expressing themselves in, I had each one describe the concept of pi to each other.  The results exceeded my wildest expectations.

I had students creating videos, stop motion animation, coding games and movies in Hopscotch, and creating presentations in Adobe Slate.  I was impressed not only with the quality of the work, but in the level of sophistication and understand of the underlying concept. I feel quite strongly that this is exactly the kind of in depth work that should be done during the Math Writing time. Here are some examples:


The final important piece that I think will fit into the Math Writing sessions is writing computer code.  Last year my students used the iPad app Hopscotch to learn to code.  What began with a couple of lines of code to draw different geometric shapes, blossomed quickly into my students coding animations, their own computer games, and even movies.  The critical thinking, problem solving, error analysis, tenacity, and logical reasoning all increased as a result of their working in Hopscotch.

Coding is another vehicle for students to express their thinking and understanding of a concept, and is an essential 21st century skill.  Giving students time during their Math Writing time to practice their coding skills will be extremely important.

Math with Someone

The third piece of the Math Daily 3 is Math with Someone.  This time is set aside for students to find a partner to work with on some set of math activities.  Math with Someone is another time for students to work on a variety of tasks.  As with Math with Myself, this is another time for students to work on their math skills.  While Everyday Math often denotes certain pages to be worked on independently, it equally as often denotes having students work in pairs to complete some of the math journal pages.  Giving students certain pages to be completed during this time will be a fixture of this partner time.

Another integral part of Everyday Math is the program’s math games.  Everyday Math includes a wide variety of math games designed to be played in order to practice certain skills and concepts.  These games are almost always designed to be played with two players and they lend themselves well to be played during this partner time.

The final piece of Math with Someone is Math Review.  As put forth by Ainsworth and Christinson (2006), Math Review is the first of the Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program. Our district has adopted this program and using Math Review as part of our daily routine is expected.  While Math Review is supposed to only take 10-15 minutes per day, even this amount of time severely limits our ability to get through all three of the Math Daily 3.  I am looking for ways to integrate at least some of the Math Review work into my students’ Math with Someone time.  If the students can work on the problems together with a partner, we can save anywhere from 5-10 minutes of class time each day.  We can still correct the problems together at the end of the period and make sure that we are going through the progression and error analysis that makes Math Review an important activity.

What About the Task Board?

As you can see, a task board was the least of my issues when it comes to structuring my math period this year.  In order to be consistent, I think I will default to something very similar to what I use for reading.  Something like this, though of course with three sessions instead of four:

Daily 5 session task boardThis task board will allow me to schedule flex groups and individual conferences in such a way as to allow the students to better plan their work time for the entire math period.

I am looking forward to being able to sink my teeth into the Math Daily 3 and to create in math what we already have during our reading time: a classroom that is actively engaged, independent, creative, hard working, and that is built around student voice and choice. I look forward to the challenge.


Ainsworth, L. & Christinson J. (2006). Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program for Secondary Grades. Englewood, CO: Lead + Learn Press.

Boushey, G. & Moser, J. (2014). The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades (2nd Edition). Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *