Open-ended Maths: a selection of 101qs favourites

The 101qs website was created in 2012 by Dan Meyer, a great Maths teacher and dedicated apostle of open-ended Maths.

‘Open-ended Maths’ is an expression that sounds pretty scary to many Maths teachers. A lot worse than ‘out of the textbook’, which is rather trendy and flattering. Dan Meyer’s first paragraph on his About page does not seek to cajole them back to their comfort zone either:

We don’t care how well you lecture. We don’t care how well you engage us. We aren’t impressed by your fancy slide transitions or your interactive whiteboard. We care how well you perplex us.

This sets the tone perfectly: open-ended Maths is about stimulating students by presenting them with a perplexing picture or video — perplexing in the sense that it raises questions. Students have to formulate the questions themselves and subsequently solve them, which often means developing appropriate resources on the way.

If you are a regular reader of my posts, you know by now that this blog is not about being ‘for’ or ‘against’, but understanding precisely WHY and HOW an idea is potentially useful for teaching Maths. In this instance, it so happens that open-ended Maths is not only cool, it is also an essential teaching tool — for reasons I shall explain in a later post — on the condition that it is not used systematically (for reasons I shall also explain).

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How to develop fundamental abilities

This post provides a few practical tips on how to develop fundamental abilities (i.e. the first level of the Maths ability pyramid), thus helping students to become more confident by increasing their awareness and fluency with the mental manipulation of objects and processes such as order, numbers, causes and consequences.

There is a double benefit in working on this development: not only does it help teenagers to focus and develop mental resources, but it does so by involving them in a series of lively exercises that look very much like collective games with relatively little Maths involved. In other words, developing fundamental abilities is both low-cost and high-benefit.Read More »

The magic of Q&A beyond expectations

It is always very stimulating when questions and answers in a Maths lesson suddenly go beyond all expectations.

This might sound like this is something that only happens exceptionally. Not so. In a class where a climate of questions and answers has been set in mutual trust, exceeding expectations happens almost every day.

In this post, I would like to show two such examples, one where my expectations as a teacher were exceeded, and another where a student improved his own conceptual understanding starting from a misconception – which was of great benefit to the whole class.Read More »

Why is it so important for students to have a sound number foundation ?

Yes, you’ve heard it before… ‘Students can’t do sums anymore’.

You had heard it before, hadn’t you ? Well, just in case you hadn’t, that’s exactly what someone was telling me last night at the pub: ’Oh, you’re a Maths teacher, eh ? Well, I’ll tell you one thing, mate: kids can’t do sums anymore !’

That was just in case you hadn’t heard it before.

True or not true ? Important or not ?Read More »