Week 3 of the #MTBoS blogging challenge is all about questioning. Here’s a favourite brand of question I use in my classes a lot. The Numberless Question.
Google is apparently the best place in the world to work, and the competition to work there is fierce. They are also famous for some very strange questions in their interviews. Consider this question…
That’s it, no numbers, no dimensions and you’re not allowed to “google it”(gasp)
I love this question because it more closely mirrors the mathematics real people do. It turns maths into a creative process, where the first step is figuring out what you need to know and how to find it.
It’s also an exciting way to show students that mathematics is about process, not answers. In a question like this, process is everything, since there is no “The Answer”. A student’s justification and process is all that matters. Too often, students race to “The Answer”. I find playing with questions like this allows students to explore maths more deeply.
Numberless questions are also easily differentiated. Should we account for the seats, or should we remove them? Should we consider the golf balls as spheres or cubes, since an estimate might be good enough. If we’re assuming spheres, should we consider the space in between the spheres? How big is that space?
How about some other ones?
So try leaving the numbers out some time. Because, as with pizza toppings, sometimes less is more.