Creative Math Prompts

There is a lot of talk in math education circles about the power of noticing and wondering. And (pardon the pun) it's no wonder! When we ask math students to notice and wonder, we shift the focus from teachers’ explanations to students’ ideas. Observing (noticing) and questioning (wondering) are simple, powerful habits that enliven and enrich every aspect of instruction. For the teacher, they support formative assessment, lesson design, classroom discourse, differentiation, and the potential for greater rigor. For the student, they develop self-reliance, confidence, curiosity, perseverance, problem-solving, conceptual understanding, and reasoning.

Does it seem strange that such a simple idea has such profound potential? Try it! As you and your students spend more time observing, questioning and creating, you develop new habits of mind that transform the learning environment, leading to more productive beliefs about math and how we learn it.

So where to start? A fun and practical approach is to begin with Creative Math Prompts. These are just images—sometimes very simple ones—that you show to students in order to elicit their observations and questions. In addition, images like these open a space for mathematical creativity. The immediate goal is simple—to get students comfortable expressing their thoughts and realizing that their ideas matter. Ultimately, you would like the habits of noticing, wondering, and creating to extend beyond the prompts and become an everyday part of your teaching and your students' thinking.

Please bear in mind that, in keeping with the theme of this website, the Creative Math Prompts below are designed with advanced learners in mind. However, using prompts like these is appropriate for all learners, and I encourage you to try them with others! You will discover students whose mathematical insights and creativity blossom even while their strengths may not show up in traditional tasks and assessments. If you find that some prompts are too complex or advanced, you can usually modify them to suit other needs. All learners benefit from noticing, wondering, and creating!

Click on an image to get more information about the prompt.


 

EARLY GRADES
What do you notice? What do you wonder?
What can you create?

 

more early grades...

MIDDLE GRADES
What do you notice? What do you wonder?
What can you create?

 

LATER GRADES
What do you notice? What do you wonder?
What can you create?