Texts on Tuesdays: Good Questions for Math Teaching Part 1!

Today is the first day of EIGHT great posts about questioning in the math classroom!  I have partnered up with three of my math blogging buddies to bring you...
Every other week we will be bringing you posts from the two "sister" books...one geared more for elementary, and one geared more for middle.  Jennifer from "Teaching to Inspire in 5th" and I will be handling the elementary posts and today is the first one!

The first part of this book really focuses on what a "good" question is and gives three main features of good questions.
1.  More than simply remembering or reproducing a skill
2.  Students can learn from solving it--and teachers can learn about students from it
3.  There may be multiple answers

The next section focuses on two methods for creating these "good" questions...either picking a topic, writing a "closed" question that you then make up a question that already includes the answer....


Select a topic, pick a standard question, and then improve it.

To be honest, I had a bit of a hard time wrapping my head around the ideas until I checked out the many examples given in the next section!  This section is filled with examples of great questions in a number of different mathematical areas related to "number" such as money, fractions, decimals, place value, counting, and operations.  I know. That's a ton.  The real "meat" of this book comes in the examples...so here are my discussion questions for you all to chime in on!

1.  If you currently use a series, do you feel that the questions provided fit along the lines of the "good" questions (more than simply remembering, students and teachers can both learn , and may have multiple answers) or are they more "standard" questions?  If they are NOT good questions, where can we turn to find better questions?

2.  This section gives some ideas for how to incorporate more problem solving--from partnering to small groups, to whole class discussions to what role the teacher can have.  What are some of the most successful ways you have found to "organize" your math class time to get the best bang for your buck with problem solving?

3.  Looking through the problems presented in chapter 4, which ones caught your eye?  Which problems could serve as a model for you to use in your own classroom?  For example, I was really taken by the idea of having students write their own questions based on a set of data. I have done this in the past and the students love it--I need to do it more!  Which problems really intrigued you?

So...let's hear it!  If you HAVE read the book...let me know. If you haven't, I'd love for you to still chime in and let us know your thoughts about any of the above questions!  Simply add your ideas to the comments--and feel free to "piggy back" off each other!  To be a book study, we need to get that conversation going!

Want to get your own copy of the book?  Click here.

One more thing...to thank you for stopping by to check out the first post, I've whipped up a little freebie for you!  I thought you might like one "ready to go" problem in the format I was taken by...a way for students to write their OWN questions.  What a great way to see how deeply (or not!) a student is understanding!  Grab it off my google drive and let me know what you think!  Don't forget to leave your book comments below as well.

Also...don't forget to check out NEXT week's grade 5-8 post hosted by the wonderful 4mulafun!

Finally...are you on Twitter?  I have gotten in on the ground floor of a great new math chat...it is currently every other Monday night at 7 PM central--and the next chat is June 30.  Follow #talkmath to hook up!


  1. We do currently use the Go Math Series. There are some "Good Questions" in the series like the Math Journal prompts and the Problem Solving Pages that prompt students to explain their thinking. I don't think that there are enough of those types of questions in the book. I like the questions presented in this book and I will definitely be using them in my classroom this year. I think the best way to handle it is to do just what the book said and what you stated above, design our own. I believe that by taking the frames that the series provide us with and changing the format, we can come up with some great questions that will deepen student understanding. In the end, we will have students solve problems from the book while explaining their thinking.

    I haven't found the best way to organize my math block. At this point I teach a lot using Whole Group (mostly because Whole Brain Teaching lends itself better to it) but what I am noticing from examining class data, is that while most of my students are doing well I am failing to reach some of my other students. I really would like to hear some things that have worked in other classrooms because I want to create the classroom environment where every student has his/her needs met.

    I too like the idea of having students design their own questions but I am afraid of what they would look like. My students' abilities are so diverse that I feel that it would be a struggle.

    1. Thanks for all your great insight...and I think your thoughts are in perfect alignment with MANY teachers in the trenches! Let's get some others chiming in!

  2. I spent a lot of time developing questions when using Investigations with my third graders last year. I did not like the curriculum though. I am looking forward to a change this year. I plan on using these ideas in a different way... you can read about it in my blog post here: http://thinkwonderteach.com/2014/06/good-questions-for-math-teaching-k-6.html


  3. I have always been frustrated when my children knew how to do a skill, but couldn't translate it to one of those "good" questions. Now I know they really didn't understand the skill! I will be taking a lot of my already done questions and rewriting them as good questions. As for grouping, I recently went to a Kagan seminar which gave tremendous ideas of how to group students. Once I heard their method, I thought, "Why didn't I think of that?" I am looking forward to implementing this in my classroom this year.

  4. Towards the end of the year, I changed my small groups. My criteria was that these students never worked with each other before. When I presented them with a problem to work together, they were really discussing and understanding the concept. I realized that I needed to provide opportunities of problem solving in a small group setting. The students thought it was fun. The small group relieved the pressure of a partnership that may have been struggling. The students were willing to try a more rigorous problem.

  5. As a math support specialist I only see my students once or twice a week - certainly not ideal. During our time together I am trying to foster math conversation using math vocabulary. What I am finding is that the conversations generate questions from the students about the idea or concept. Either the student talks through the question and answers it or someone else in the group is able to answer and explain. Keeps the conversations lively and on a math topic and gives the student ownership of the content. Also I have found that when we talk about problem solving and how people solve problems in life then they are able to tackle problem solving tasks given ti them with a little more ease.