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Q&A #5432


Open-ended math questions

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From: Pat Ballew (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Jan 07, 2001 at 21:34:03
Subject: Open-ended math questions

Alison,
  An open-ended question is just one that does not have a single right
answer. Compare it to a close-ended question like "What is seven times six?"
In open-ended questions you get more information (usually) about how the
student thinks and what he or she knows and doesn't know.  One is not better
than the other, you just use them in different ways to narrow your
investigation into student understanding.

   For example a class is shown a graph of a straight line during the study
of slope. Depending on how well the concept has been developed in the class
a teacher may ask very narrow or very broad questions.
Early in the instruction a good narrow question might be "Does the line go up
or down?"  But later you might ask the class "What would you say about the
slope of this line?"  or even "What can we say about the growth of this
function?"

  Some students may only tell you the slope is positive, another may tell you
the slope is 5/2, and another may explain the slope in terms of the changes
in the independent and dependent variable.

In short, a mixture of open and closed-ended questions help you focus
discussion to insure students understand topics completely.

Hope that helps a little

 -Pat Ballew, for the T2T service

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