Archive for 2014|Yearly archive page

Open-Ended Tasks and Questions in Mathematics

In education, inquiry, math on September 13, 2014 at 12:28 am

One way to differentiate in math class is creating open-ended tasks and questions (I talked about several differentiation strategies I use here – Mathematically Speaking).

I think it is useful to clarify the scheme of mathematical problems – below I used Foong Pui’s research paper:

Problem types

“Problems in this classification scheme have their different roles in mathematics instruction as in teaching for problem solving, teaching about problem solving, or teaching via problem solving.”

1. CLOSED problems  are well-structured problems in terms of clearly formulated tasks where the one correct answer can always be determined in some fixed ways from the necessary data given in the problem situation.

 A.Routine closed problems – are usually multi-step challenging problems that require the use of a specific procedure to arrive to the correct, unique, answer.

B. Non-routine closed problems – imply the use of heuristics strategies * in order to determine, again, a single correct answer.

*Problem-solving heuristics: work systematically, tabulate the data, try simpler examples, look for a pattern, generalize a rule etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Tracking Student Progress

In education, math, planning on August 17, 2014 at 4:21 pm

This is a response to Damian Watson who asked me on Twitter to share some materials I created to keep track of student progress in math. I will, however, insert some photos, too, because some charts seem confusing without the aid of a visual.

I think it is also helpful to explain the process. (NOTE: These are my grade 2 samples.)

  • First, I check the standards (given in the school Math curriculum). They are the big picture of what is expected and it is good to know them. However, they only help so much.

Math 1


I correlate them with the report card objectives – as shown here Math – standards Read the rest of this entry »

Inquiry: To What End?

In activities, inquiry, thinking on April 27, 2014 at 9:16 pm

This was originally supposed to be a simple reply to Aviva Dunsiger’s blog post. I soon realized it would have been too short and thus I could have been easily misunderstood.
It all started with my question: “How do these projects enable deeper thinking?”, question that I asked after seeing her students’ work. Briefly the sequence of activities was the following:
1. Students brainstormed questions to guide their research on natural phenomena.
2. In groups of 2-3 they would write a poem using onomatopoeia and personification in the context of their natural phenomenon.
3. Last, they would create artwork that showed the natural phenomenon they researched about.
At first glance, this is an interesting and engaging chain of activities. Yet, to me, the over-arching question was missing. To what end? What was the understanding the teacher wanted the students to have? How does each of the three activities help build a central powerful idea about natural phenomena?
I realized then that we adhere to different instruction theories: project-based vs. concept-driven learning. On the surface, many can mistake one for the other, especially since both use inquiry as a vehicle to construct understanding. Read the rest of this entry »