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Higher Order Thinking Questions for Math Teachers

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  • 0:01 Higher Order Thinking…
  • 1:15 Grade Level Differences
  • 2:54 Math Material
  • 6:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lindsey Pierron
In classrooms across the country, higher order thinking questions are used on a daily basis. It can be challenging to incorporate higher order thinking questions into math instruction, but it is essential in helping students make connections to mathematical material.

Higher Order Thinking Questions Defined

For the last decade or so, teachers have been strongly encouraged to incorporate higher order thinking questions into instruction. Essentially, the emphasis has been on using questioning strategies to get students to use what they know to answer questions that may not be explicitly provided in course material. Higher order thinking questions force students to examine what they already know, what they've learned, and what they still have questions about so that they can make connections. In language arts, science, and social studies, incorporating higher order thinking questions is fairly simple. Given the nature of the material, in most core subject areas, students have numerous opportunities to make connections, form opinions, and develop their own conclusions based on what they know.

However, in math, it can be challenging to develop higher order thinking questions, because math concepts are concrete. With that said, it is important to ask higher order thinking questions and encourage students to dig a little bit deeper into their math curriculum. When incorporating higher order thinking questions into a math class, a teacher should keep in mind students' ages and grade levels, along with the type of mathematical material being taught.

Grade Level Differences

Students are asked higher order thinking questions starting in kindergarten, and those questions become more complex as they advance through school. In math, teachers can use higher order thinking questions throughout instruction, asking them to synthesize information, and evaluate what they have learned. It is important, however, to consider grade level differences when formulating higher order thinking questions to imbed into instruction. Vocabulary plays a key role here because it would not make sense to ask a first grader to evaluate two alternative ways to solve a problem, as that student may not know the term 'evaluate.' It would, however, be appropriate to ask a junior in high school to evaluate the best way to solve a math problem and justify his response.

Let's look at some higher order question examples:

Grade-Level Elementary (K-5)

  • Make a prediction.
  • Using the information provided, create a graph to display the data.
  • Did your friend make a good choice in how he solved the problem? Why do you feel that way?

Grade-Level Middle School (6-8)

  • Logically, which answers could you rule out? Justify your answer.
  • Which method is the best option for solving the problem? Explain your thinking.
  • Which mathematical rule applies in this situation?

Grade-Level High School (9-12)

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