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The Art of Asking Thought Provoking Questions in the Mathematics Classroom


This is a position paper that advocates the use of higher level conceptual questions in the mathematics classroom. Recent research on how students learn mathematics shows that understanding what they are doing and why is critical. Such learning does not happen spontaneously, the teacher must provoke the student to do the thinking required to understand. The key is in the questions the teacher asks. Students answer 'typical' classroom and textbook questions by looking for and following an example or by mindlessly executing a standard procedure. Most of the paper is a 'How To' guide for developing higher conceptual level questions that provoke students to think. Several techniques for modifying traditional questions are illustrated with examples ranging from elementary to high school level topics.