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The Q Factor: Adding Quality to Our Questions

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.
One of the neat things about being an educational blogger is that you get to connect with educators across the country and even the world.  This past summer I attended the Teachers Pay Teachers conference in Las Vegas, and I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Greg Coleman, aka Mr. Elementary Math.  Naturally, we hit it off, and I knew that collaboration would be in our future.  Tonight, I present my very first guest post, written by Greg.  There’s even a freebie at the end!

This post contains affiliate links, which simply means that when you use my link and purchase a product, I receive a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, and I only link to books and products that I personally recommend.

The Q Factor

Do you find yourself asking questions like, “What place does the underlined digit hold in the number 256?”  Many of us ask questions like this during our math instruction. 
As educators, we find ourselves looking for ways to ask questions that will both challenge and grow our students’ understanding.  It is important that we strategically plan lessons to incorporate higher-level, open-ended questioning.
Take a look at the questions below and consider how they differ.  Which question drives to the heart of student understanding?

 

After looking at the questions above, you may be thinking  “How can I easily create questions that will help drive to the heart of student understanding?”  Good Questions for Math Teaching, by Peter Sullivan and Pat Lilburn, is an excellent book that supports educators in asking good questions.  According to the authors, good questions contain three characteristics:
  1. They require more than remembering a fact or reproducing a skill.
  2. They build students’ learning through answering questions, and the teachers’ learning about their students from their attempts.
  3. There may be several acceptable answers.

You may be asking yourself, “How can I gather or create questions that fit the 3 characteristics?”  There are 2 methods that are used by Sullivan and Lilburn to address this concern.
Method 1: Working Backward
·         Step 1 – Identify a topic
·         Step 2 – Think of a closed question and write down the answer.
·         Step 3 – Make up a question that includes (or addresses) the answer.
Using method 1 may look like this:

Now it is your turn! Use the example above to adapt a question with the answer in mind.

Method 2: Adapting a Standard Question
·         Step 1 – Identify a topic
·         Step 2 – Think of a standard question.
·         Step 3 – Adapt it to make a good question.
Using method 2 may look like this:
Now it is your turn! Use the example above to adapt a question with the answer in mind.
Take a look at some additional questions for elementary grade students that followed the methods above. Click on the images to download the Quality Questions template.
Though this process takes time, I challenge you to try it at least 2 – 3 times each week.  Notice the difference that great questioning techniques have on student thinking.  It is worth a couple of additional minutes to move our students in this direction as the Common Core Standards are requiring more from all of us. 
P.S. This is my VERY 1stguest blog post and I really want to thank Donna for extending this opportunity to me.   Donna is the best!!

 

25 Comments

  1. Gemma Bruckner

    Love this! Only the K-2 one will open. When I click on the blue the yellow one still opens. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      It’s just one link to a file with both the K-2 and 3-5 posters, Gemma. Scroll down in the document for the 3-5. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Sarah M

    Great post, Greg! Thanks for the wonderful examples and resources. I am always looking to add resources to my questioning repertoire!

    Smiles,
    Sarah

    Reply
  3. МАЯ Ф.

    hello I am a teacher in a primary school in bg nice it will Bulgarij -Europe-to communicate with you, I do not know English translator Guga use

    Reply
  4. Sara Franza

    LOVE this! Can’t wait to share with my faculty!! Thank you..,,..,.,and you’re right. Donna is AWESOME!

    Reply
  5. Margie Pearse

    Thank you for such a wonderful resource! I am sharing with all my pre-service teachers and bragging about you! Bet your ears have been ringing! 🙂

    Reply
    • Greg Coleman

      Thank you so much for the compliment Margie. I think your ears are ringing as well because I am sharing the information from your book with my teachers.

      Greg
      Mr Elementary Math

      Reply
  6. Kelly Pulham

    Great blog post. I have been working on creating more challenging questions and trying to get a better understanding of my student’s thinking. This will help. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Greg Coleman

      Your welcome Kelly. I am sure that you will create an enriching learning environment for your students this school year.

      Greg
      Mr Elementary Math

      Reply
  7. TheElementary MathManiac

    Great guest post by a great blogger!

    Tara
    The Math Maniac

    Reply
    • Greg Coleman

      A great comment from a great blogger! 🙂

      Greg
      Mr Elementary Math

      Reply
  8. Megan @ I Teach. What's Your Super Power?

    Love this! Just shared it on my 5 on the Fifth post. I’m going to be stalking you now since I’m teaching math again this year. 😉

    Megan
    I Teach. What’s Your Super Power?

    Reply
    • Greg Coleman

      Thank you Megan! I am so glad that you found this to be helpful. This is a great coincidence because I just started following you today because of your wonderful post on No Reply Bloggers. If you don’t mind could you reply to this comment, so that I can make sure that I am not a No Reply Blogger. : )

      Greg
      Mr Elementary Math

      Reply
  9. Greg Coleman

    Thank you for the kind comment Jamie. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed it.

    Greg
    Mr Elementary Math

    Reply
  10. Lucy Ravitch

    Nice! Very thorough post and intriguing! Glad you were able to meet Greg–I’ve met him through blogging but meeting in person at conferences is great.
    ~Lucy
    Kids Math Teacher

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I agree, Lucy! It was so nice to put faces with names and to meet new bloggers, like Greg!

      Reply
  11. Jakera Dawson

    I really enjoyed reading this information. These question will help students think deeper about the math concepts that are being taught. To answer the questions students will show mastery of the content. Teachers will be able to see which students grasp the concept and which students need further teaching on the subject. Students get to answer a question in multiple ways and help each other in the process, by sharing their reasoning. I will definitely use these quality questions in my classroom!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      You touched on many of the advantages of using great questions, Jakera! The learning is just so much deeper when students are allowed and encouraged to talk about math. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Anonymous

    Where is the Math Coach? I miss reading your blog!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      That is so sweet!! I’ve been swamped, but I’m still here! New blog posts coming soon. Very soon. Like maybe tonight! 🙂

      Reply
  13. Caryl Anne

    There are a ton of great and useful examples shown within here! Thanks for sharing the additional links and resources!

    Reply
  14. Vicky

    We are starting to look more “closely” at our math questions and make them more critical thinking questions. Your examples were extremely helpful. Thank you!

    Reply

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