Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Writing Open Ended Questions

  Yesterday, I talked about visible thinking.  One of the suggestions was to use questions that had no one right answer so students had to explain their thinking.  Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find questions that meet the criteria so its important to know how to change questions from having only one answer to a more open ended one or create your own questions.

Lets first look at taking specific questions found in the textbook and turning them into more open ended questions.
Board, Mathematics, Characters, Count
  Take a process question such as "Calculate 47 x 25" and rewrite it to read "Calculate 47 x 25 in two different ways.". Or take a question like "I have a quarter, a dime, and three nickles in my pocket, how much do I have?" and change it to "I have 5 coins in my pocket, how much might they be worth?"."

Instead of finding the volume of a rectangular prism measuring 2.1 by 8.2 by 3.4 and rewrite it so the student is asked to create a word problem where you need to find the volume of a rectangular prism in order to solve it.  You could also rewrite it to require students to find all the possible dimensions of a rectangular prism with a volume of 120 m^3.

Next lets look at techniques for creating open ended questions.

1.  Think of Jeopardy where the answer is given and the contestant provides the question but in this case there is more than one answer.  An example might be "Area of 30 square feet" which gives four possible questions such as "What is a rectangle that is 3 by 10, or 2 by 15, or 1 by 30 or 4 by 5".  This will be a student's first thought but it also allows for questions like "What is a triangle with a height of 10 feet and a base of 6 feet."

2. Use examples that have wrong answers and have the students decide where the mistake is and how to correct it.  It might be a question like "George thinks 24 + 37 equals 51 but Jill says its 511.  Who is correct?  Explain your answer."  In this case both answer are wrong so they have to explain that.  It could also be a question involving one person seeing five rectangles in a design while the other person sees three rectangles and two squares.  The student has to help settle the disagreement.

3. Get menu's or price lists from real world places and have students calculate things like "How much would a school lunch cost if it were bought at this restaurant?" Get a news paper and ask students to speculate on the relationship between the space articles and ads take up on a page.

4. Use the Tell Me All technique which simply asks students to write down what they know on a topic such as fractions, roots, factoring, etc.

Tomorrow we'll look at creating good "Which one does not belong?" questions.  Let me know what you think.