Today at the session on cultural context in Math and performance tasks, one of the presenters talked about creating performance tasks that are relevant to students. She took time to show how to create the tasks that students will understand.

Many places in Alaska heat their houses or saunas with wood. So she started with a picture of a cord of wood showing it is 4 x 4 x 8. Surrounding it were four more pictures, each showing a load of wood but in a different mode of transport such as a boat, a pickup truck, a 4 wheeler with a trailer and a snow machine with a sled. The idea is you include enough information so students can find out that not all cords are the same.

Then she showed us a picture of a water tank from one of the villages she'd visited. There were enough items such as a truck that students can make educated guesses as to the measurements of the tank so the students can calculate the volume.

The discussion made me realized I did a performance task years ago when the high school created a cross curricular unit.

Step one: I had students read an account of the battle of Dunkirk. I had them note the number of men moved from France back to the UK.

Step two: Determine the number of boats they could use from the village and decide how many people each boat could carry.

Step three: Calculate the total number of people who could be carried by all the boats in one round trip.

Step four: Calculate the time it would take for a round trip, including 20 min to stop, load, and turn around.

Step five: Calculate how many trips would it take to move all the soldiers from the next village over to our village.

Step six: Compare the time it would take for the village to move that many people with the time it took originally.

This performance task used a situation they were familiar with so they could picture the operation mounted back in 1940. It turns a historical event into something students could relate to and understand.

Now I know what to do to turn photos, or historical events into performance tasks.