The ultimate goal of differentiation is to meet the needs of the varied students in a classroom during instruction, but this can seem overwhelming. One way it can become manageable is if the teacher can create a single question or task that allows students at different stages of mathematical development to benefit and grow.
This single question is called an Open Question. A question is open when it is framed in such a way that a variety of responses and approaches are possible.
For example, look that the picture below. Describe what you see by using a mathematical equation and justify your answer.
What equation did you come up with?
How many equations could you come up with?
Can you justify all your equations?
Marion Small in her book called, Good Questions, Great Ways to differentiate Mathematics Instruction suggests 5 ways to change a closed question to an open question.
1. Turning the question around
2. Replacing the question with a blank
Open questions can lead to great classroom discussion that can engage all students. So give them a try and share with us your results!
You may enjoy this book by Marion Small. Inside are many examples of open question for grades Pre K through 8.