Priming Tasks to Encourage Multiple Solution Methods

Designing inclusive tasks and problems to support learning.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Encouraging students to find a solution through multiple methods.

Method Components

The educator leads students through a lesson where they have the opportunity to develop multiple methods of evaluating, approaching, and finding solutions to a task. This can be done individually, in small groups, or in whole-group instruction.

Description of priming tasks and problems

Tasks take many roles within a lesson—exploring concepts, solidifying concepts, and connecting multiple topics. Regardless of their use, tasks are designed to support learning, not assessment. The goal is not simply to find correct answers. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, “A worthwhile task is a project, question, problem, construction, application, or exercise that engages students to reason about mathematical ideas, make connections, solve problems, and develop mathematical skills. On the basis of this definition, this task is worthwhile in that it (1) allows for connections, (2) incorporates multiple approaches and solutions, (3) requires higher-level thinking, and (4) facilitates reasoning and communication” (Breyfogle and Williams 1).

Encouraging multiple solution methods

When worthwhile tasks incorporate multiple approaches and solutions, students are able to build on what they have learned and apply it to a variety of scenarios; every student has an access point to the problem. The Standards for Mathematical Practice also emphasize that students make sense of problems and persevere in solving them (MP.1), meaning that students develop methods for solving, evaluate their approach, and make adjustments as needed. This course is specific to developing the priming phases of a task, where students are asked to make sense of the task and develop a solution method or plan to complete it.

Components of encouraging multiple solution methods

  1. Design and implement tasks with a specific learning target that are open and encourage multiple entry points and solution methods.
  2. Provide opportunities for students to develop a solution method independently to eliminate groupthink.
  3. Lead classroom sharing of student-generated solution methods to provide student entry points; depending on the task, sharing may occur before, during, or while debriefing the task.
  4. Use follow-up questions while monitoring a task to ensure that students are evaluating their method and making adjustments as needed.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items you must submit to earn the micro-credential and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. To earn this micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 2 and a “Proficient” or “Exemplary” for Part 3.

Part 1. Overview questions

(150-word limit for each response)

  • List the standards addressed in the task and the learning target for your task.
  • Describe the lesson generally and the specific purpose of the task you have selected to demonstrate encouraging multiple solution methods.
  • OPTIONAL: Please describe any other important context that an external observer would need to understand this lesson or your particular teaching context.

Part 2. Evidence/artifacts

(150-word limit for each response)

  • Include a copy of your lesson task in the template.
  • Describe how the task meets one or more aspects of the standards addressed in the lesson target.
  • Identify and describe the multiple solution pathways that students can use to solve this task. As evidence for this submission, you can solve the task multiple ways and include evidence of your work.

Part 3. Student reflections

Part 3a. Classroom video

Provide a hyperlink to a video submission for your selected lesson and task. This video submission must meet the following criteria:

  • It should comprise one clip focusing on the priming and monitoring phases of your identified task; the clip should be no longer than 15 minutes.
  • The camera should be positioned so that the majority of the students and your lead instruction can be seen.
  • The teacher and students should be audible and/or subtitled.

Part 3b. Classroom video analysis

Please answer the following questions (200-word limit for each response):

Describe the overall sequence of your task priming to encourage and acknowledge multiple solution methods, including:

  • How did you assist students in making sense of the task or prompt?
  • How did you encourage bringing diverse perspectives and solution methods to the task?
  • Why did you choose this portion of the task to encourage students to develop their own solution methods?
  • How and why did you select specific students to share their solution methods developed in the priming stages?
  • What impact did this priming have on the overall engagement of students throughout the task? What evidence from student work and/or the video do you have to support this analysis?

Describe the observed methods that students pursued during the task, including:

  • Provide a list of the solution methods observed in student work or during circulation around the classroom.
  • How did these methods compare to the anticipated methods that you generated in Part 2 of this submission? Did students reveal any additional methods?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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