Publication by Miro about the future of distributed teamwork

Creative thinking in a math classroom

February 9, 2021

For years creativity was discouraged in schools. Teachers imposed strict guidelines for kids’ assignments and there was only one correct answer and one accurate process. In that old-fashioned setup, following rules and standards was the best way to become a successful A student. Luckily, things started to change. Teachers slowly begun to recognize the huge importance of fostering creative thinking in the classroom. Surprisingly, math teachers are one of the pioneers of creativity-inspired teaching.

Creative thinking = divergent thinking

When thinking about the word divergent, I’m sure negative connotations come to mind. But, 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 rooted deeply in our minds that different means wrong. Why is that so?

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

Fostering critical thinking inside the classroom

The world we have known is changing rapidly. The set of skills we have now might not be useful in few years. The ability to adapt to new conditions and situations is a crucial skill. But employers want you to look beyond the answers.

Creativity is now valued as the most important business skill, and 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?

By allowing students to nourish their creative thinking in the classroom you prepare 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, 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 a math classroom results in simplt 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 foster 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, a classroom needs to value differences and learn from that diversity and creativity. I have listed few techniques that will help you out in boosting creative thinking in a math classroom.

Number talks

Number talks are sessions where students present various solutions to math problems. They are not using pencil, pen, calculator, or an 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 communication.

Teachers usually structure number talks so students sit on their seats while a teacher writes down their solutions on the board. It’s often difficult for all the solutions to fit on a board. Further on, students might not be able to see all the writings on the board from their seats. But by using Miro as an online smartboard your students can solve problems from their seats and have full visibility. You can manage students’ participating rights, if you don’t want them all to draw at the same time.

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. There are various benefits of this practice. 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 sense of what level your students are operating at, as they will only come up with problems they can personally solve. Students will often include their personal stories and experiences into their explanations. Thanks to this, you will learn a great deal about your students’ interests and life outside of a classroom.

Engage with your students wherever they are

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