creative thinking in math classroom

For years creativity was discouraged in schools. Teachers were imposing strict guidelines kids should follow when doing their assignments. There was only one correct answer and one accurate process, while everything else was wrong. In that old-fashioned setup, following rules and standards was the best way to become a successful A grade student. Luckily, things started to change lately. Teachers slowly started to recognize the huge importance of fostering creative thinking in the classroom. Math class teachers are surely one of the pioneers of creativity – inspired teaching.

Creative Thinking = Divergent thinking

When thinking about the word divergent, I’m sure you had negative connotations coming to your mind. Now, let’s stop for a moment and see what the word divergent really means. Scholars describe divergent as tending to be different or develop in different directions. Divergent thinking refers to the way the mind generates ideas beyond prescribed expectations and rote thinking. Is being different really that bad? Although we can all agree it’s not, it’s been rooted deeply in our minds that different means wrong. Why is that so?

As children, our divergent capability operates at a genius level. Starting with our education, the system teaches us that doing things differently is wrong. Due to the system suppression, the ability to think divergently decreases drastically as we grow.

creative thinking in math classroom- divergent thinking

What exactly the divergent thinking has to do with creativity? The definition of creativity is the ability to come up with original, unique solutions to problems or ideas. In other words, creating something new, a new value. That being said, thinking differently than others is actually required if you want to come up with something different, something unique. So, basically, thinking divergently is a key to creativity.

Fostering Critical Thinking Inside Classroom

The world we have known is changing rapidly. Set of skills we have now, might not be valid in few years. The ability to adapt to new conditions and situations is a crucial skill. Employers want you to look beyond the answers. Creativity is valued as the most important business skill, while creative thinking is one of the keys to economic prosperity in the 21st century. So, how can we prepare our children for this fast changing, hectic environment?

creative thinking in math classroom - importance of creativity in schools
Photo Credit: Dylan Wiliam

By allowing students to nourish their creative thinking in the classroom you are preparing them for the world outside of it. Turn your classroom into an open space of free thinkers and wonderers. Allow your students to use new thinking tools, to tweak solution paths and facilitate new processes. The best way for students to learn how to think creatively is to let them think creatively. Let them test, revise and draw conclusions from their own judgments. With time, they will become more and more confident in their thinking.

Creative Thinking in Math Classroom

Lack of creative thinking in math classroom results in memorizing techniques, without imagining how, where or why to use them in real life. Setting up an environment in which mistakes are allowed, and making sure that your students know there is more than one solution to a problem will go in favor of creativity. Math is as much about posing problems as problem-solving, and at that point, the creativity is in noticing there is something to investigate. Another powerful tool in supporting students as independent, creative thinkers is the use of questioning. In this environment, classroom needs to value difference and learn from that diversity and creativity. I have listed few techniques that will help you out in boosting creative thinking in math classroom.

Number Talks

Number talks are sessions where students present various solutions to math problems. They are not using pencil, pen, calculator or algorithm, but only their mental process often referred to as mental math. Students solve problems by breaking and decomposing numbers. Once they solve the problem, they need to explain the logic of their solutions to the entire class. It is a great way of both facilitating students’ creative thinking and practicing their argumentation. 

creative thinking in math classroom - number talks
Photo Credit: Catherine Reed

Teachers usually structure number talks in a way that students sit on their seats, while a teacher writes down their solutions on a board. It sometimes may be hard for all the solutions to fit a board, causing that some of them have to be erased. Further on, students might not be able to see all the writings on a board from their seats. AWW has a simple solution to these problems. Use AWW as an online smartboard and let your students solve problems from their seats. Solutions will display both on a smartboard or a projections screen and their own devices. You can manage students’ participating rights, as you don’t want them all to be able to draw at the same time.

creative thinking in math classroom - number talks
Photo Credit: Catherine Reed
Writing Their Own Problems

One of the ways to spark creative thinking inside the classroom is by letting your students write their own math problems. Benefits of this practice are various. You can assess whether your students can apply higher-level thinking skills. Students can improve their argumentation skills while they practice explaining the logic behind their problems. You will also get a feedback at which level of understanding are they, as they will come up only with the problems they can personally solve. Students will include their personal stories and experiences into their explanations. Thanks to that, you will learn a great deal about your students’ interests and life outside of a classroom.

 

 

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Author: Dorotea Knezevic

Head of Marketing at AWW. Google certified specialist, content creator and social media enthusiast