A powerful, effective and easy way to differentiate in math is through open-ended tasks. Open-ended math tasks teach your students valuable mathematical problem-solving skills while deepening student engagement, understanding and retention.
Open-ended math tasks…
- Do not have one right answer
- May be completed at different levels and in different ways
- Empower students to make mathematical decisions
- Engage students in productive struggle to build understanding
- Encourage student creativity
Open-ended math tasks may be used in guided math lessons where the teacher can support and coach students as they work on the task and share their ideas. Open-ended math tasks may also be used at work stations with students working independently or collaborating with a team. Teachers can also use open-ended math tasks for assessment. The three categories you may use to assess the tasks are:
- Complexity: The work matches the level of the student
- Correctness: All math terms, computation and information is correct.
- Neatness: Completed task is neat and easy to understand
Here are some ways to develop open-ended math tasks that do not take a lot of teacher preparation. You may click here to download the 10 open-ended math task cards shown in the image above.
- Compare and Contrast: Students choose two numbers, shapes, graphs, etc and explain in writing and diagrams how they are alike and different.
- What’s the Question? Students are given the answer and then they write a word problem with a question for the answer. This task card could be given to students at any grade level.
- What’s the Answer and the Question? Students choose a number to put in the blank and create a word problem for their answer.
- Use These Words and Numbers: A little more challenging open-ended task is to give students some words and numbers to use in their word problem. This is a great way to have students to use math vocabulary.
- Modify Closed Word Problems: You can use some of the closed word problems for your grade level and remove some of the values to create open-ended math tasks.
- Closed: Taylor has 854 baseball cards, and Kyle has 928. If Taylor and Kyle combine their baseball cards, how many cards will there be?
- Open-Ended: Taylor has lots of baseball cards, and Kyle has even more cards than Tyler. If Jade and Kyle combine their baseball cards, how many cards will there be?
- Closed: Bobby saw 3 cows, 2 horses and 6 chickens at the farm. How many animals did Bobby see at the farm?
- Open-Ended: Bobby saw some cows, horses and chickens at the farm. How many animals did Bobby see at the farm?
- Closed: In the fish tank there are 28 fish. One fourth of the fish are goldfish. How many goldfish are in the tank.
- Open-ended: One fourth of the first in the tank are goldfish. Draw a picture of the fish in the tank.
6. Close or Almost: Using these words on math tasks gives students many more possibilities for their answers.
- Add two numbers where the sum is almost 25. What could the numbers be?
- Subtract two numbers then add a third number where the answer is almost 30. What could the numbers be?
- Multiply two numbers where the product is close to 500. What could the numbers be?
- Divide two numbers then multiply a third number where the answer is close to 100. What could the numbers be?
I hope your students enjoy using open-ended math tasks!