Posted on 09/22/2009 at 11:03 AM by Global Reach

Good Questions can…
•    encourage students to do more than recall known facts and have the potential to stimulate thinking and reasoning;
•    emphasize problem solving application and the development of a variety of thinking skills; and
•    develop their students’ higher levels of thinking.

There are three main features of good questions:
1.    They require more that remembering a fact or reproducing a skill.
2.    Students can learn by answering the questions, and the teacher learns about each student from the attempt.
3.    There may be several acceptable answers.

They require more that remembering a fact or reproducing a skill.

I want to make a garden in the shape of a rectangle. I have 30 meters of fence for my garden. What might be the area of the garden?

This question requires comprehension of the task, application of the concepts and appropriate skills, and analysis and some synthesis of the two major concepts involved. Students may be able to answer routine questions on perimeter and area without fully understanding the relationship between the concepts. In fact, students who do not understand the relationship between perimeter and area will claim they cannot answer this question because there is not enough information.

Students can learn by answering the questions, and the teacher learns about each student from the attempt.

John and Maria each measured the length of a basketball court. John said that it was 25 yardsticks long, and Maria said that it was 24 ½ yardsticks long. How could this happen?

After having discussions of a variety of plausible explanations, students established essential aspects of measurement. Teachers also learn about student understanding of the concept and can give a clear indication of where further work is needed.

There may be several acceptable answers.

Both of the previous examples.

Questions that have several possible answers foster higher level thinking because they encourage students to develop their problem-solving expertise at the same time as they are acquiring mathematical skills. Since correct answers can be given at a number of levels, such questions are particularly appropriate for mixed ability classes.

How to Create “Good” Questions
The important thing is to plan the questions in advance, as creating them is not something that can be done on your feet.

Working Backwards:
1.    Identify a topic
2.    Think of a closed question and write down the answer.
3.    Make up a question that includes (or addresses) the answer.

For Example:
1.    The topic is averages.
2.    A closed question might be: The children in the Smith family are aged 3, 8, 9, 10, and 15.  What is their average age? The answer is 9.
3.    A good question could be: There are five children in the Smith family. Their average age is nine. How old might the children be?

Try it!
Create a “good” question by using the three-step process by working backwards. Try it out with your students and let us know what happens.

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