Using open-ended mathematics problems: a classroom experience (primary)
Proceedings of the Redesigning pedagogy: research, policy, practice conference, Singapore, May - June 2005.
Chan, Eric Chun Ming
With the call to promote thinking in schools, it presents opportunities to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics through means that move away from the traditional approach. The use of contextual open- ended mathematics problem tasks is discussed in this paper. What makes open-ended problems an attractive approach towards teaching and learning is their open and challenging nature that can engage the students’ minds. Besides touching on the proponents for open-ended problem- solving, the teacher’s classroom experience in engaging Primary 6 students to work on the problem tasks is presented along with samples of the students’ solutions whereby the mathematics is discussed. The problem tasks involved have characteristics of simplified real-life situations and they require the exercise of some form of cost-benefit analysis. The intended purpose then was for students to use mathematics in real world situations via an open approach towards finding plausible solutions. The students worked in small groups of 4 or 5, made assumptions to the related problem tasks, and developed various options to help them make an informed choice towards their goals. The students’ solutions show the use of listing, categorizing, and graphing as their strategies. The teacher through this experience shares the positive implications and difficulties encountered.