I just read this article from Robert Kaplinsky about the difference between these two types of questions. His explanation makes a lot of sense, so I thought I’d pass it on. Many times, what we think of as open-ended questions are really closed-ended, meaning there is a specific final answer. There is definitely a place in our math classrooms for both types of questions. As professionals, we need to decide what works best based on our purpose and desired outcome.
Kaplinsky explains that sometimes the preferable problems are those with open middles and closed ends. “These problems all have the same answer (closed end) and allow for great discussions around the strategies students used (open middle).”
Check out the website Open Middle for problems you can use at the kindergarten-high school levels.Below is an example of an Open Middle problem from Kaplinsky…share it with your students or your colleagues and discover some of the incredible math discourse that results.