3 Reasons to Use Open Ended Math Tasks

In science class the definition of kinetic energy is energy that is in motion. In social studies the Revolutionary War happened between 1775-1783. These are all answers that only have one correct response. But math is different. It is fluid and open to interpretation whether in the answer or the reasoning one took to arrive at that answer. And for this fact I love using open ended math tasks in my classroom.
What are open ended math tasks?

Open ended math tasks are problems with more than one answer. They encourage higher order thinking and justifying mathematical reasoning. They are more than “Solve: 13 x 4.”

I have always encouraged creativity amongst my students by modeling different ways to approach a problem and open ended tasks support all of this and more. Here are 3 reasons why you should be using open ended math tasks in your classroom.

Open ended tasks promote math discussion.

I use Which One Doesn’t Belong math prompts to start the day. Students are encouraged to share their responses and EXPLAIN why they chose the answer they did. Students will debate with one another to defend their answer. You’ll hear logical reasoning being used and perhaps some misconceptions that you can address.

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Open ended math tasks will build student confidence.

When I introduce WODB to my students I tell them there are NO wrong answers! They love the idea of NOT being told “no” or “incorrect” and they start to take greater risks. Watch out for over-the-top abstract responses or ideas that are very basic and redirect students back to reasoning that is math based and appropriate for their grade level. Open ended tasks celebrate the variety of ability in your classroom. In the example below the two student responses are both correct and illustrates different levels of understanding.

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Open ended prompts build engagement

As teachers we’re always looking for ways to hook our students and increase interest. These types of prompts will engage students! Keep your tasks and questions short and vague and watch the ideas fly! Your students’ problem solving skills will also improve. Ask questions that cover different topics in different presentations such as manipulatives, models, number lines, and more!

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Any type of open ended math task is sure to build student confidence, problem solving skills, and creativity. Just keep the practice routine. If you want your students to be comfortable with this type of questioning, they need to routinely see it. Grab our set of Which One Doesn’t Belong Math Prompts for grades 4-5. It includes 150 ready to go open ended math prompts—ZERO prep for you!

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