Walking the line between order and chaos: a teacher-researcher's reflection on teaching mathematics with challenging tasks in primary classrooms

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Encouraging teachers to incorporate challenging tasks into mathematics instruction is frequently implored by mathematics educators, due to its potential impact on student learning and persistence. However, there is evidence that teaching with such tasks is pedagogically demanding, particularly for less expert teachers. To support a developing dialogue around the experience of teaching with challenging tasks, I document my experience of teaching 84 lessons involving challenging tasks to three grades of year 1 and 2 students as part of a research project. Adopting a ‘practitioner inquiry’ lens, I analyse my reflective journal to reveal five themes: classroom management, maintaining and managing cognitive demand, time management, tensions between discussion objectives and tensions in task design. Implications for teacher professional learning are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-24
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • mathematics education
  • teacher research
  • challenging tasks
  • teacher challenges
  • teacher professional development
  • lesson structure
  • Problem based learning
  • Primary mathematics
  • Persistence

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