Exploring an innovative approach to teaching mathematics through the use of challenging tasks: a New Zealand perspective

Naomi Ingram, Marilyn Holmes, Chris Linsell, Sharyn Livy, Melody McCormick, Peter Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports on a New Zealand iteration of the Encouraging Persistence, Maintaining Challenge (EPMC) project, which proposes that students learn mathematics best when they build connections between mathematical ideas for themselves. This iteration explores the actions, perceptions and learning of 12 primary teachers and their 281 students during the implementation of a set of challenging tasks related to geometric reasoning. The teachers launched the suggested tasks, ensuring that the challenge was maintained. The students explored these tasks with minimal input from the teacher, and learning was summarised and extended. The teachers were positive about the intervention. The challenging task approach enabled students’ thinking became visible and, at times, the teachers’ prior perceptions of their students’ ability were challenged. A highly significant difference between the students’ pre- and post-assessment scores was found. The students were supported to have autonomy in their learning and make mathematical connections themselves. The students became less reliant on their teachers’ help and were positive about their involvement in the project.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-522
Number of pages26
JournalMathematics Education Research Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Challenging tasks
  • Confusion
  • Geometry
  • Lesson structure
  • Mathematics
  • Persistence

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