# Creativity in maths - plea for help!

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by Yvonne LN, Jul 12, 2010.

1. ### Yvonne LN

Please can you find a few minutes to help me out?

What are your thoughts regarding creativity in maths?

I'm researching teacher perceptions of creativity in maths, and would really appreciate it if you would be kind enough to take 10 minutes (maybe 15) to complete a survey to contribute to my data collection.

If you supply contact details, I'll send you a summary of the findings.
If you'd be happy to help, you can access the survey by going to this link. (It will also explain a bit more about the survey and the information to be collected.

2. ### bgy1mm

Gauss was give the task of summing the integers from 1 to 100 by his schoolmaster, who wanted to finish reading his newspaper, and thpught it would keep him quiet. In the event he never finished that paper. Within a few seconds Gauss presented him with the answer, having invented a formual for summing arithmetical series.
These things happen occasionally. But mathematical creativity in the schoolroom is exceedingly rare.
What we can do is give problems where the answer is known to the schoolmaster, and the techniques for solving the problem have been taught, but it is not entirely obvious how to apply them. Sometimes there might even be two or more valid approaches to the same problem. However it is almost impossible to set a task for which the techniques for solving it are not known beforehand, at school level at least, and it is even less likely that the pupils will be able to come up with a novel solution. However someone, somewhere in Britain, probably has a little Gauss in his class.

3. ### NazardNew commenter

Hi Yvonne,
I do hope your research goes well. I am sorry that this will probably sound stroppy (and to be fair, it probably is stroppy), but I don't like filling in questionnaires that won't let me give the answer I want to give. I got as far as the question: "To what extent do you think Primary school maths is currently creative? <font color="#c43b1d">* </font>" and then had to stop because it won't allow me to answer it the way I want to. I want to say something about how I know lots of teachers who involve lots of creativity in their teaching, but others who treat maths as a set of rules to learn and nothing more. The answer boxes won't allow me to do this and the asterisk means I can't omit the question. So I gave up.
Sorry!
I also started with a suspicion that I may not hold the same definition of "creative" as others who answer your questionnaire, but that may, of course, be part of your point!

4. ### Yvonne LN

Thanks for your response.
Food for thought - and a useful link.
Have you seen this video of Dan Meyer talking about how we can develop problem-solving skills?

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover.html

There's also the debate about the nature of creativity versus problem-solving.

5. ### Yvonne LN

Hi Nazard,

Thanks for your response - not stroppy at all. It's only when people start using what you've designed, that you find out what works and what doesn't. It's all part of the design/test/refine cycle.

I didn't go down the line of defining creativity, as part of my hypothesis is that in many cases, schools are addressing the creativity agenda without actually establishing what they mean by the term. This can and does lead to woolly approaches, with teachers trying to be creative in their teaching without necessarily developing mathematical creativity in their students.
The question that caused you to lose the will to live precedes one in which the participant is asked to identify what examples of creativity they have seen or experienced. The intention here is to glean what characteristics of teaching/learning the participant judges to be creative.
The last response box was intended for responses that don;t fit into the rest of the form.
However, I can see what you mean and will review the structure.

Although no strictly creativity but focused on problem-solving, have you seen this Dan Meyer video?
Worth a look (only around 10 mins)
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover.html

Thanks again, I do appreciate the feedback!

6. ### pixelNew commenter

OK, I have replied and will be interested in the results.
Am I the only maths teacher who found the Meyer lecture patronising?

7. ### Yvonne LN

Hi Pixel,

Thanks for responding. Much appreciated.

No I don't think you are the only maths teacher to find it patronising.
My guess is that you're probably trying to develop these skills with your students anyway, but I am aware of a lot of maths (and other subject) teaching that is focused on exam outcome and not real skill development. It's interesting to observe the reactions to this video. I've found a number of teachers for whom it's a real revelation. (Scary but true!)

(By the way...I am trying to space the lines of my replies....but it all seems to merge into one paragraph. Maybe it's because I'm using Safari and not Internet Explorer.)

8. ### stevencarrwork

No, it was very patronising.
Why not concentrate on problems that many 14 year olds find hard today? I buy 7 pizzas that cost 6 pound each. How much have I spent? You will see a lot of creativity in the answers!

Patronising, facile, shallow.
(I confess I gave up before it finished - so please give me the time point for any different impression.)
Creativity!!!!! Riiiight. What you see is evidence of the vital importance of excellent teaching of maths facts in primary school. Once students have lots of maths memory, then they are free to do maths for real. They needn't waste thinking time and effort on number or tables facts, because they've mastered these details to the point of automaticity.
Just like learning chords and scales on musical instruments - once you've got your fingering and all the rest of it - you're free to use the skills on more and more complex performances.

10. ### NazardNew commenter

Hi Ade - I assumed that Steven was being a little tongue-in-cheek and was referring to the vast number of different answers 14 yr-olds would give to this problem, where you might, from some pupils be as likely to get any of the following as answers to 7x6 =
13, 40, 41, 42, 43, 76
That was <u>my</u> creative interpretation of his reply, anyway!

12. ### Sandypants2

I am doing an action research assignment on creative teaching and learning in maths and looking at progress of pupils. I am focusing on early years and KS1. Do you have anything that might help me?

I would be extremely grateful if you have any tips on this as I have no idea where to start. I am an overworked GTP student!

kind regards...