Maths and Critical and Creative Thinking

Let’s face it, the general sentiments about maths can be somewhat… uninspiring. We hear many complaints about maths and how students find it boring and don’t like it, and we figure that’s because a lot of us teachers don’t feel confident enough (ourselves included!) to teach beyond the textbook, lest we get it wrong and the students are forever ruined in their mathematical knowledge. We personally understand this trepidation and ingrained feeling that the only proper way to teach maths is from the textbook because really, it was written by math genius’s right??

But should this really be the case?

We have begun small, baby steps, in trying to open maths up to some creative and critical thinking. Something to get those problem solving skills and connecter neurons happening. Something to make this fun, and seem worthwhile.

We used to start with the usual ‘What do I know, What don’t I know’ type of questioning at the start of maths units to try to ascertain what the students may be able to recover from mathematical lessons of past, but after a while, this too became slightly mundane.

So we turned to our favourite types of critical and creative thinking templates and questioning. Instead of telling the students what we were going to ‘tackle’ in maths, we gave them an opportunity to explore creatively some connections and prior knowledge through Blooms, Questivities, and Thinkers Keys. These were given to the students as ‘prior – knowledge’ learning tasks and as a way to introduce them to the concepts we would be exploring in maths.

The students were given these tasks as a sheet and they needed to present it in a way that they thought was interesting and informative. Most students stuck to the ‘poster’ presentation method, however we have had a few student starting to delve into prezis, movies and other forms of digital presentations. These were shared with the class and then discussions around the ‘vocab’ we would need for this topic would occur. As students came up with pertinent words, they were given a card to write the words on and add to the ‘Vocab Wall’. This then ensures the students can see and access this language and associated vocab all the time in class.

The result?
Students collaboratively working together to produce some rather thoughtful, engaging, and sometimes hilariously creative ideas! It may seem like a whole heap of fun (which it was!) but with carefully constructed questions and learning tasks, students began to make connections between the concepts and real life. They were able to begin asking those big questions, see the purpose these concepts have in our world and use language that they didn’t know they already had ingrained into their mathematical vocabularies. As a teacher, not only does this practice essential 21st Century skills like collaboration, communication, inquiry and creative and critical thinking, but it gives an insight into the type of language, concepts and ideas the students might have about the topics.

And they’re much more fun to read than a pre-test or list of knowledge points.

Blooms Taxonomy on Decimals and Percentages

Fraction Questivities

Measurement Questivities

Thinker’s Keys on Chance

Please feel free to use these as you see fit and adapt to your classroom, but please cite EduSphere on your documents!