Yesterday, something embarrassing happened.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Math department at one of my High Schools, working with, building activities, and preparing to roll out Barbie Bungee to all the Algebra classes.

Yesterday, I was in Adriana‘s class during her planning period; she asked me to help her find “a performance task for rational functions.”

So after daydreaming about a graphing activity where students protect their house from a tornado that travels in a  rational-function-path (h/t Nora Oswald) and playing with Glenn Waddell’s 1600 Rational Functions graph, Adriana handed me this:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

I tried to keep my lip from curling as I read it.

“This is what the department wants to use for Quadratics.” Adriana said. “Do you know of a Performance Task like this for Rational Functions?”

So picture you’re me.

Years ago, you gave a well-received workshop at CMC about performance tasks. That workshop morphed into a full-day training that you now give for schools and districts up and down the state. You’re developing that workshop into a book on how to make math class less like the paper you’re now holding, which the teacher insists is “a Performance Task.”

Got it? Do you feel what I’m feeling?

Here's what it feels like.

Here’s what it feels like.

In that moment, a lightbulb went off.

The performance tasks that I see teachers use in the #MTBoS ask students to think critically, track down missing information, utilize available tools and find new ones,  and connect abstract concepts to concrete representations as they work in groups toward a goal with cloudy, uncertain steps.

Compare that to the proper noun “Performance Tasks” that standardized testing services provide as sample items and on the triennial “assessment.” Their Performance Tasks (capital P and T) are merely long worksheets with uninspiring questions orbiting a central topic.

The SBAC Performance Tasks are not my performance tasks.


For the last year, math departments in my district have been asking me to find Performance Tasks (capital), then have been disappointed when I delivered performance tasks (lowercase).

I imagine this feeling is what Hydrox felt when Oreo became a household name.

~Matt “But Mine Is Better” Vaudrey